Can Liverpool do it?

Written on 29 December 2023, 03:26pm

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Here is how the PL table looks like after the first half of the 2023/24 season:

On paper, Liverpool has a slightly easier second half of the season, with more games at home than away (10 vs 9) and all the newly promoted sides yet to play at Anfield. Here is the full list of 19 games, sorted by degree of difficulty:

10 home games:

  • 5 quite winnable: the 3 newly promoted, Palace, Wolves
  • 2 difficult, but winnable: Newcastle, Chelsea
  • 2 difficult: Brighton, Spurs
  • 1 very difficult: City

9 away games:

  • 2 difficult: Arsenal, Villa
  • 2 traditionally tricky: United, Everton
  • 3 London trips: Fulham, West Ham, Brentford
  • 2 against teams with low expectations, but potentially banana peels: Bournemouth, Nottingham

Below I will look into the prediction and the schedule, but first, a few assumptions:

  1. Liverpool will not be involved in the January transfer market (in or out). A safe assumption looking at the recent years, and also confirmed by a few trustable journalists. There is a chance that Fabio Carvalho might come back from his Leipzig loan, albeit he might be moved on to another team, perhaps in the PL.
  2. Injuries: while Matip, Tsimikas and Bajcetic are likely out for the season, I think it’s safe to assume that MacAllister will be back from his injury in early January, while Robertson and Thiago will become available later in February. Also, I will assume that no other long term injuries will occur. As we all know, they quite be quite damaging in Liverpool’s case, especially for the key players (Alisson, Virgil, Trent, Mo).
  3. I will also assume that Liverpool are out of the FA Cup on 7th of January. I think it’s a reasonable assumption given the difficulty of the fixture (playing Arsenal away) and the fact that Liverpool is more likely to focus on the EFL semifinal against Fulham in a period where they will be without their main goalscorer, any of their left full backs and the only experienced number 6.

What are the odds?
At this point in time, Opta (British sports analytics company) give City as favourites to win the title (55%), then Liverpool (27%) and Arsenal (15%).
Betting companies give the following odds: 1.8 to City, 3.5 to Liverpool, 5 to Arsenal (how to read this: bet 10 EUR on City, win 18; bet 10 EUR on Liverpool, win 35).

I also think there will be a three way race, but I think it will be quite a tight one, with all the 3 teams finishing above the 80 points mark. Unlike the betting and analytics companies, I believe Arsenal are the favourites to win it this year. They have a very good team which only improved after finishing last season with 84 points, they are more experienced and have their fixtures nicely spread out in the second half of the season. They do play 10 out of 19 games away and have a few difficult away fixtures (City, United, Tottenham), but I believe that they can finish close to 90 points. The recent loss against West Ham was a freak occurrence: from the chances they created it was more likely to score 5 than 0 goals. It will probably not happen again this season.

I expect City to improve on their 40 points half-season, as they usually do (I expect them to win their game in hand vs Brentford). But not by a large margin, for a number of reasons: the number of games they played so far and are still likely to play (would not be surprised if they reached the CL final again), the number of injuries (albeit they do have the squad depth to cope with it) and the fact that they look more fragile than last season (so far they lost 8 points from winning positions). They play more games at home than away and I expect them to finish the season with 85+ points.

What about Liverpool?
On the short term, they will be without Mo and Endo for about a month, they will need to cope without an established left full back for another 2 months and they have double legged EFL semifinal (and a potential Wembley final against Chelsea) to handle.
However, they will also restart their European season later, on 7 March, compared to City – 13 February and Arsenal 20 February.
If they keep the same pace, Liverpool will finish with 84 points, but as we seen above, I doubt that it will be enough.
I think it will all depend on the crunch period at the end of April – beginning of May.
I expect Liverpool to reach the EL quarter finals (hopefully without injuries), which means that in the second half of April they will play the 2nd leg of their EL QF and two tricky fixtures in London: Fulham (20) and West Ham (27). The second one will be interesting, with the Hammers potentially chasing an European spot (5th place might bring them CL). On the other hand, this might favour Liverpool, who had would rather play an open, basketball-like game rather than a cagey, all-the-men-behind-the-ball one.

Then, come May, Liverpool might have a tricky decisions to make: prioritize the EL semi-finals (2 and 9 May) or put everything into the Spurs (H) and Villa (A) games (4 and 11 May)? If they still have a chance at the title, I expect the latter. I don’t expect Liverpool to be successful on both fronts. But I think Klopp and his senior players (Alisson, Virgil, Robertson, Trent, Mo, Gomez) deserve more than one PL title and they only need a bit of luck to win it. And of course, they could do without perfectly valid goals being ruled out by distracted referees.

In conclusion, I expect Arsenal to finish with close to 90 points, City 85+, and Liverpool at least 84. Their chances to overtake City and Arsenal will depend on a lot of factors, including the European competitions for all the 3 teams, injuries, fatigue or simply luck. Either way, I think it will be an exciting second half of the season and a memorable title race.

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