Ask any Liverpool fan if the season to date has been a disappointment and the answer will be that it has been. After finishing second and playing some of the most exciting football in all of Europe, it has been a painful crashing down the table to go along with some very painful to watch football. It's been static, it's been ineffective, and the manager has seemed stubbornly resistant to changing anything up.
In short, it's been a disappointment. A massive one and with little sign of an imminent recovery to cling to hopefully. Three months into the season, with more than a quarter of the way through, it's also getting to the point where it becomes possible to measure just how disappointing the season has been relative to last year's. And to begin, ever so tentatively, to project where it's likely Liverpool will end the season and ask if the top four may have already slipped away.
Last season, after 11 games, Liverpool stood second in the league. They had 23 points, earned largely without Luis Suarez and at a rate of 2.09 points per game. They had scored 21 goals and conceded 10. Over an entire season, those numbers equate to 79-80 points, 73 goals scored, and 35 conceded—a +38 goal differential. Despite talk of Liverpool always improving in the second half of seasons under Brendan Rodgers, that isn't too far off—at least in the points column.
To reach even 84 points in the final table as Liverpool did meant earning 2.26 points per game over the final 27 games, a roughly 8% improvement. In Brendan Rodgers' first season at the club, Liverpool went from 1.09 points per game in his first eleven matches and improved to earning 1.81 points per game the rest of the way—a 66% improvement. A far more significant improvement, though with only 12 points from their first 11 matches there was far more room for it.
This season, Liverpool have 14 points from their opening 11 matches. They have scored 14 goals and conceded 15. They have earned 1.27 points per game, which over a season projects to 48 points. Over the past ten seasons, that equates to finishing 11th, 9th, 10th, 9th, 11th, 11th, 11th, 12th, 12th, and 10th. Liverpool's two worst seasons in the Premier League era, 1993-94 and 2011-12, saw them finish 8th and saw the departures of Graeme Souness and Kenny Dalglish.
Rodgers, though, going by the past two seasons, will hopefully be able to turn things around. Certainly, and despite the dire start to the season, he deserves at least that. Regardless the role Luis Suarez played in last year's success, when you take a team to second in the league and their strongest title challenge of the Premier League era, you earn some patience. Or at least you should. And so, as disappointing as the season has been, Rodgers deserves the chance to right the ship.
The question, though, is whether the top four is already out of reach at this stage even if he does fix the problems of the opening 11 games. An 8% improvement as was seen last season wouldn't be worth very much—it gets Liverpool to 51 points and, maybe, another 8th place finish. A 66% improvement gets Rodgers' side to 71 points. It would also mean earning 2.11 points per game the rest of the way, which is a turnaround that on current form seems unlikely.
At best it's the absolute best case scenario: if everything falls just right for this Liverpool side, they might be able to crack 70 points in the final table given where they stand today. Over the past ten seasons, that would mean finishing 6th, 6th, 4th, 4th, 4th, 5th, 5th, 3rd, 4th, and 4th. Liverpool's hopes for the top four may not quite be dead yet. They are, however, and putting aside the tendency of fans to always look for silver linings, realistically not very far off that.
Brendan Rodgers has earned the chance to turn things around, but despite that it's only November, Liverpool's league season is already teetering on the edge of irrelevance, with nothing but a months-long slog to a mid-table finish to look forward to if he can't get the team earning more than two points per game coming out of the international break. So. Who's looking forward to 2015-16?