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Liverpool’s Premier League Title Defence is Over, Now the Top Four Race Begins

Liverpool are on pace to finish the season with between 66 and 76 points.

Liverpool v Manchester United - Premier League Photo by Paul Greenwood - CameraSport via Getty Images

Liverpool appear to be out of the Premier League title race. Realistically, they will not defend their 2019-20 crown*. Instead, they are in the thick of a fight to finish top four and earn a place in next season’s Champions League, and on form it would be hard to call them favourites.

While fans will always hope for the miraculous, Liverpool are likely to finish the season with between 66 and 76 points. With Manchester City resurgent and Manchester United’s form looking annoyingly sustainable, even the upper end of that wouldn’t put them in the title mix, and no matter how you break things down the Reds look more likely to finish fifth or sixth than first or second.

Liverpool’s Form Since the 2019-20 Restart

We’ll start by looking at results since the restart of the 2019-20 season. Since then, the Reds have played 28 league games. They’ve won 14, drawn nine, lost five. It’s a record good for 1.82 points per game—fourth best in the league, just barely behind third-best Tottenham. Over a 38 game season it’s a 69 point pace, a fourth to sixth place finish most years.

With results down for all the top teams since the restart, though, a 69 point pace since then has the Reds fourth best in the league and millimetres from third. Not great, and hardly title challenging, but not the end of the world. A step back, but if recent poor results aren’t the new normal a step back that should still get this record setting group into the Champions League next season and with it the chance to reinforce, to heal, and to go again.

By comparison, Tottenham are on a 1.89 point pace since the restart, good for about 72 points a season. Ahead of them are Manchester United. Something of a laughing stock for many before the break and still at times afterwards as when they bombed out of the Champions League in December, their league form since the restart is legitimately title challenging—a 2.18 points per game pace that would net them 83 points over a season.

Unsurprisingly, then, Manchester City are first—but not by much, with a 2.21 points per game pace worth 84 points over a season. On the other side of it and behind Liverpool, surprising Southampton are fifth on a 1.74 point pace good for 66 points a season, and then Everton, Chelsea, and Leicester all on pace for a 64 point season.

Looking at form since the 2019-20 restart gives us:

  • Manchester City on pace for 84 points
  • Manchster United on pace for 83 points
  • Tottenham on pace for 72 points
  • Liverpool on pace for 69 points

Liverpool’s Form in the 2020-21 Season

Looking at just this season on its own by has the Reds on pace for 68 points—a number weighed down by recent form, and one that also confirms before the recent run of bad results, Jürgen Klopp’s side had improved on their stumbling 2019-20 restart. Before these past five games, Liverpool were playing well enough to deservedly if narrowly lead a league in a strange season.

Still, whether you combine their last five games with the first 14 or look all the way back to the 2019-20 restart, you get very similar numbers: 68 or 69 points. It may simply be that without fans, and following Champions League and Premier League titles, this is the inevitable falling back of a tired group wracked by injuries.

However, unlike when you go back to the restart, when looking at the rest of the league just this season, 68 or 69 points doesn’t matter—either is good for only sixth place.

Looking at only results for this season:

  • Manchester City are on pace for 80 points
  • Manchester United are on pace for 80 points
  • Leicester City are on pace for 76 points
  • Everton are on pace for 72 points
  • Tottenham are on pace for 70 points.

Behind those five and Liverpool in sixth, Chelsea and Southampton have rather fallen away when leaving out the 2019-20 restart while West Ham have pushed their way into the mix.

Liverpool’s Form in the Last Ten Games

Finally, the recent form table. Looking at the past ten games says roughly the same thing—albeit with West Ham usurping Tottenham’s place just outside the Champions League places and City showing signs of having returned to top form. On that note, in the past ten games, City are back to their best and on a 99-point pace. Liverpool are sixth and on pace for 65 points.

Having already played half a season, though, the question is where teams would end up if they kept up their current form table pace the rest of the way.

Projecting recent form across the rest of the season:

  • Manchester City are on pace for 90 points
  • Manchester United are on pace for 86 points
  • Leicester City are on pace for 76 points
  • Everton are on pace for 72 points

Outside of the top four, Liverpool and West Ham would both end up with 66 based on recent form and points earned to date while and Tottenham would end up with 65.

Liverpool’s Likely Best Case Scenario

Since this is a Liverpool site, we’ll also consider what happens if the Reds rediscover their pre-Christmas 2020-21 form—starting when they play Tottenham. If they do that they earn 42 more points and, added to the 34 they’ve earned so far, finish with the 76 points mentioned at the start. That would be good for third alongside Leicester on current form. And that, a rediscovery of their pre-Christmas form, seems likely the best case scenario.

All told, it also probably tells us where to expect the Reds to finish the season: with an upper limit of 76 points and a third place finish, a lower limit 66 points, and the most likely finish around 68 or 69 points. Meanwhile, it appears likely the league’s fourth-place side will earn between 69 and 72 points—hardly confidence inspiring.

However, as difficult as it perhaps seems, it would be foolish to write off Jürgen Klopp and this group. Realistically, they’re now out of the title race*. They will not defend their 2019-20 crown. But it seems far more reasonable to hold on to hope they might at least rediscover their pre-Christmas form and, with it, likely comfortably earn a top four finish.

*I will still go into every game starting with Tottenham next week thinking Liverpool can win and if they do it means 91 points and probably beating City.

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