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Tuesday, 19 September 2006

3664: History suggests that Liverpoo

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by : Antony Melvin

Looking at the last ten seasons of Premiership football there is now a case for suggesting that Liverpool will struggle to be champions. It seems that season after season the start the eventual champions get is better and better, but this is largely illusory. The fact is that Liverpool have started slower than is usual for recent champions and a string of wins is now needed to bring them back into contention.

Last season Chelsea got off to a flying start winning nine and drawing one game – but that is exceptional. In the previous nine seasons, the eventual champions won five, six or seven of their opening ten games. But only once (Manchester United in 2002/3) have a team lost twice in their opening ten games and gone on to be champions.

After only one home game it is wrong to write Liverpool off, but one win, one draw and two defeats is not the usual start of champions. If Liverpool can go unbeaten for the next six games – winning say five of them then they will be in the kind of position that recent champions have found themselves in ten games into the season.

Looking at the first ten fixtures for Liverpool you would expect that the four home games will be won. Liverpool usually beat Spurs and Villa at home, Newcastle rarely travel well and Blackburn are struggling. The two away fixtures will be pivotal. Bolton Wanderers and Manchester United away matches are tough games – two draws would not be bad results.

Liverpool First 10 Games 2006/7

Sheffield United (A) Drawn West Ham United (H) Won Everton (A) Lost Chelsea (A) Lost Newcastle United (H) Tottenham Hotspur (H) Bolton Wanderers (A) Blackburn Rovers (H) Manchester United (A) Aston Villa (H)

If Liverpool win their four home fixtures and draw in Bolton and Manchester then they will be at the bottom end of the kind of points tally historically accrued by subsequent champions. Only Manchester United in 2002/3 have won the title in the past decade with only 18 points from their opening ten fixtures – and then they went on to win just about every match after Christmas to pip Arsenal.

Eventual Champions First 10 Games

2005/6 Chelsea W9 D1 L0 28pts 2004/5 Chelsea W7 D2 L1 23pts 2003/4 Arsenal W7 D3 L0 24pts 2002/3 Manchester United W5 D3 L2 18pts 2001/2 Arsenal W5 D4 L1 19pts 2000/1 Manchester United W6 D3 L1 21pts 1999/2000 Manchester United W6 D3 L1 21pts 1998/9 Manchester United W6 D3 L1 21pts 1997/8 Arsenal W6 D4 L0 22pts 1996/7 Manchester United W5 D4 L1 19pts

Maybe this year will see the title won with fewer points than normal. But, if history is any guide, if Liverpool want to be in the shake-up next March they must go on an unbeaten run – preferably stringing together a series of wins – and that run has to start now.

Antony Melvin
18 September 2006

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