The Importance Of Beating The Bottom Eight

Liverpool squeezed past Queens Park Rangers 2-1 at Anfield on Saturday, thanks to an 87th minute header by Steven Gerrard. In most seasons a match like this would be soon forgotten, but in 2014/15 such a result has proved relatively rare. I’m talking about a home win against a team in the Premier League’s bottom eight, and the below table shows how important a good record in these games can be.

We can see here how the Reds have fared at home against the division’s worst teams since 1995, and this season has been very poor in this respect.

lfc home to bottom 8With one game to play, Liverpool have already dropped seven points in these matches; Aston Villa won at Anfield in September, whilst Hull, Sunderland and Leicester all travelled home with a point too.

A glance at the Premier League table on Sunday morning shows that Liverpool would be sat in second place had they amassed an extra seven points. Granted, Manchester City and Arsenal have games in hand, but the point is that the Reds would be ahead of fourth placed Manchester United, and not behind them.

It should also be noted that Liverpool have only once previously had a clean sweep in these games though (so it’s unrealistic to automatically expect it), and that was in the only season when more than two teams in the Premier League have managed this feat. The bottom teams were poor in 2009/10 though; Portsmouth propped up the table with nineteen points, and thirty-one was enough to stay up.

The table suggests that it’s not unreasonable to expect seven wins from these matches though (and indeed Rodgers did manage that in his first two seasons), and that could’ve made a huge difference to Liverpool’s fortunes this season. It’s interesting to see which seasons are at the top end of this table; for all Rafa Benitez’ reputation for being too cautious against lesser sides, his Liverpool team only failed to win a total of five of these games across his six seasons. If the Reds fail to beat Crystal Palace in two weeks, they’ll have matched that total of five this season alone. I’d fly a plane with this paragraph hanging off the back if I could, but it’d need an enormous banner….

All teams that fail to achieve what they want to each season can say “if only we’d won this game or that game” but what we’re looking at here isn’t like saying the Reds might’ve won at the Etihad or the Emirates. It’s about Liverpool winning a set of games that they are expected to. The fact that they have only scored eight goals in seven games against the strugglers sums up this season to a tee; with one game to play that’s twenty fewer goals than the Reds bagged in these matches in 2013/14, and if they’d scored that again they’d be one goal shy of being the league’s top scorers.

Matches like these may be poor spectacles as the visitors park the bus and Liverpool huff and puff, but they can definitely be very important come the final reckoning.

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