At the start of the month, we talked about how Liverpool's form in the second half of the season had the club on pace for its worst finish in the top division since they were demoted in 1954. As Nate of Oh You Beauty more recently pointed out, since January began the club has managed only 0.73 points per game. These are not things that speak to a club heading in the right direction as the end of a supposed season of transition and growth draws near.
Instead, they speak to a club in free fall, and one that has been since even before events of the past week. Even before losses to QPR and Wigan, two sides in the relegation zone when Liverpool faced them, the points per game haul in the second half of the season was a lowly 0.89. This is important when it comes to putting losses to two sides in the relegation zone into context because at 0.89 points per game over an entire season Liverpool would finish with 34 points. And in the last five seasons, 34 points means getting relegated three times—twice by finishing in 19th, once in 18th—and just barely surviving in 17th place twice.
In the second half of the season, Liverpool has been on relegation form, and they were on relegation form even before Wednesday's collapse against QPR and Saturday's match against Wigan where at best they played their opponents level at Anfield but got nothing for it. Based on form, losing to sides that have been averaging less than a point per game throughout the entire season is hardly a surprise. Perhaps, for those who believe the only problem for Liverpool this season has been bad luck and missed opportunities, it may still seem shocking that Liverpool could lose twice in a row to sides in the relegation zone. To those who think there are deeper, more serious problems that need to be addressed and that any plan—if there ever was a coherent plan—long ago went off the tracks, it's just as disappointing but far less a shock.
The numbers, at least, suggest it's the latter. The numbers suggest that losing to QPR and Wigan should not have been much of a shock. They suggest that something is seriously wrong, and that rather than being a club with a plan building for the future in a transition year, Liverpool is a club getting worse by the week. They suggest that as things stand they won't be getting better any time soon, and that unless one is determined to believe that numbers and the reality they represent have a decidedly anti-Kenny Dalglish bias, blaming bad bounces and the woodwork seems unlikely to halt the slide.
Looking at the second half of the season in its entirety, Liverpool had been in 17th on form, hovering just ahead of Wolverhampton, Wigan, and QPR before playing the latter two last week. However, based on form tables that only consider the most recent six games, Liverpool was in fact behind both QPR and Wigan when they played them. Now, while Liverpool remains behind both when considering only the past six matches, they have also fallen into 18th on overall form in the second half of the season, level with QPR while Wigan moves ahead into 17th. Only Wolves, averaging less than half a point per game, have been worse in 2012.
Looking at returns based on form tables, after the first six rounds—the season's first full form table covering a period from from August 13th to September 26th—Liverpool was in 6th. Three rounds later, looking at only the six matches that took place between September 10th and October 24th, Liverpool had fallen to tenth. Moving ahead three rounds, Liverpool had rebounded, moving back up to sixth based on form.
That level of performance roughly continued until the form table ending with round 24 on February 6th, with five of the six included games coming from the second half of the season. Then Liverpool hit rock bottom, finding themselves in 19th on form after round 27 and then again after round 30. Moreover, based on either recent or second half form, the only side Liverpool face in the final eight games similarly placed is Aston Villa, in 16th since the new year with an even 1.00 points per game. Meanwhile the likes of Newcastle, Swansea, Fulham, and Norwich all sit in the top ten with well over twice as many points per game as Liverpool since January began.
Based only on the cold, hard results, at this point Liverpool shouldn't be considered favourites to take points from any of those sides in the coming weeks. And if Kenny Dalglish and the coaching staff genuinely believe as some fans do that it's only luck, tiredness, and referees that have made Liverpool one of the worst sides in the league in the second half of the season, it's hard to imagine things changing.