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Carragher Targets Fourth but It May Already be Out of Reach

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Jamie Carragher looks at an eight point gap and sees a target within reach, but history says things aren't as simple for Liverpool as the deceptively small deficit might lead one to believe.

Clive Brunskill

Despite victory on Saturday, Liverpool remained in the bottom half of the table on Sunday, sat in eleventh a point behind Swansea and Fulham while West Bromwhich Albion and the top four remain eight points out of reach. Despite the deficit, Jamie Carragher believes fourth isn't out of reach for this year's Liverpool squad. Unfortunately for the player, the club, and its fans, the numbers suggest it's not far off from that.

"We look as if we have not made a good start, but with winning on Saturday, we are not too far behind the top four," insisted Carragher in an interview with BBC Radio following Sunday's win over Wigan. "It is still up for grabs. Besides the top two, and even Manchester United lost on Saturday, a lot of teams are dropping points all over the place.

"From our own point of view, we now want to kick on and make a challenge for that top four place because it seems that everyone is throwing it away."

It's not too far off the sentiment fans and the players fell back on time and time again last season as a rough first half marred by poor finishing quickly devolved into a disastrous run in the new year that saw Liverpool near the very bottom of the form table. Last year, however, the season was more than half way done before people began to look for such slivers of hope.

This year, over two-thirds of the season remains and Liverpool has at least shown signs of improvement and fluid football under Brendan Rodgers. This time around, there's a feeling things are different than when the club struggled under Kenny Dalglish and Roy Hodgson, with the former's troubles increasing as the club appeared to move ever further in the wrong direction on the pitch while the latter employed a brand of football antithetical to the beliefs of most fans and in doing so managed to drain all hope.

Despite all that, though, the cold reality of history is not on Liverpool's side no matter that the season is still relatively young. West Brom are currently on 1.91 points per game while Liverpool are on an unimpressive 1.25, and to cut that seemingly small eight point gap on the table means not only matching the fourth place side's current pace but beating it comfortably across the rest of the season.

Even if West Brom, currently on pace for 73 points, falter, the average fourth place finisher over the past ten years has recorded 68 points—or 1.79 points per game. And to reach 68 points, then, Liverpool would have to do enough over the final two thirds of the campaign to raise their points per game average by over half a point per game. In total points it may not look like much, but looking at what it has take historically to reach the top four in the Premier League shows just how deceptively small that eight point gap likely is.

To match West Brom in the unlikely event the Baggies manage to keep up their current pace, Liverpool would need to achieve 58 points over the final 26 games—or 2.23 points per game, a pace good enough to win the league most seasons. To reach the 68 points of an average fourth place finisher Liverpool would need 53 total points and 2.04 points per game the rest of the way.

That's the real gap—that distance between the 1.25 points per game Liverpool is on and more than two they need in order to make up the deficit over their remaining 26 games—not the eight total points that Carragher and fans see when they look at the table.

With two thirds of the season remaining, Champions League action may not be entirely out of reach quite yet. To get there, though—to even have a chance of getting there—Liverpool likely need six points from every three games in the league from here on out.