Football Features

Did Liverpool just bottle the Premier League? The reality behind the four stats suggesting they did

By Harry Edwards

Published: 17:39, 12 May 2019 | Updated: 16:53, 14 September 2021

Things had looked so positive for Liverpool this season but in the end, the Reds would miss out on the Premier League once more.

Jurgen Klopp’s ended the season on 97 points thanks to a 2-0 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers, with Sadio Mane scoring in each half.

But the win would be in vain with Manchester City’s 4-1 victory at Brighton and Hove Albion securing them a second-consecutive title.

Yet, despite Liverpool’s wonderful campaign, the Reds have been ridiculed for ‘bottling’ the league by opposition fans.

But, despite some less-than favourable stats, that really hasn’t been the case. So we’ve had a look at these ‘stats’ to prove just why Liverpool shouldn’t be ridiculed for ‘bottling’ the league.

1. Losing after being top at Christmas

Though December 25 is halfway through the Premier League season, the standings are often used as a way to predict how the final table will end up. A team bottom at Christmas will be expected relegation fodder while the league leaders more often than not go on to win the title.

In fact, eight of the past 10 Premier League leaders at Christmas had ended the season as champions – with one team proving the exception to the rule. In both 2008/09 and 2013/14 Liverpool had been top of the tree at Christmas and failed to bring the title to Anfield – something they mimicked again this season.

But this should not be a stick used to beat the Reds, who have been largely unfortunate to have another wonderful team in the league.

Ending the season on 97 points, only two sides have won more than Liverpool in Premier League history: Manchester City this season, and Manchester City last season. In all-but two seasons in Premier League history, Liverpool would have won the league – amassing more points than Arsenal’s Invincibles.

Jurgen Klopp’s side have averaged 2.55 points per game this season, a ridiculous amount for a team not to win the league.

2. Dropping a seven-point lead

If Liverpool’s lead at Christmas wasn’t enough to put them in good stead for the Premier League title, the Reds entered 2019 seven points clear.

Speaking in his pre-match press conference ahead of the final weekend, Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola admitted his surprise that his side were still in the title race given Liverpool’s advantage, saying: ““It’s a dream to be here, I didn’t expect it when we were seven points behind [Liverpool, at the start of 2019].

“We’ve shown many things. If we make back to back it would be nice but nothing is going to change too much – the fact is we have done incredibly well all season.”

But over the weeks Liverpool’s lead dropped and eventually ended in the crucial one-point advantage for City at the close of the 2018/19 season. Yet, again, this speaks more volume about City’s strength as a team than Liverpool ‘bottling’ the league.

Since the start of 2019, Jurgen Klopp’s men have dropped just 11 points from 18 games – a run which included their only league defeat of the season to Man City. In that same spell, City have dropped three, winning every game except for a 2-1 defeat to Newcastle United at the end of January.

All season Liverpool have dropped just 17 points but, once again, they were up against a better side.

3. Goalless draws against Man Utd and Everton

Opposing fans will look at poor results across the season to point out where Liverpool ‘bottled’ the league. But they will have a hard time finding one. Goalless draws against Manchester United and Everton in the title run-in will look bad on paper, but the reality is those games were harder than they looked.

Take the Manchester United draw for example. At that time United were in good form and well in with a chance of finishing in the top four, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at the wheel.

And although it was a United team hit by injuries in the first half, that only made it harder for Liverpool to get ahead. Solskjaer’s constant forced changes meant United’s tactics were a mess, and even the best team would struggle to work out how to exploit them.

Then in the stalemate against Everton, Liverpool came up against Jordan Pickford in form, a man looking to make up for his mistake in the previous fixture at Anfield – not to mention the solid defensive partnership of Michael Keane and Kurt Zouma.

This wasn’t as much a case of Liverpool bottling to the dropped points but just coming up against tough opponents at the wrong time – as every team does.

4. The “poor” form of Liverpool’s front three

If you ask some people, Mohamed Salah and the rest of the Liverpool front three have had an underwhelming season. Last year the trio combined to score 57 goals in the Premier League, with Salah grabbing 32 and the Golden Boot.

But this season, Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino have managed 56 across the Premier League with a much more even spread.

Both Salah and Mane ended the season with 22 Premier League goals, joint-top scorers alongside Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Yes, there were times when the trio were out of form, particularly Salah and Firmino, but Liverpool found goals from elsewhere – something they didn’t have last season.

Outside of their front three, Liverpool’s players combined to score 30 goals this season – five more than the rest of the team managed last year.