Liverpool might be title contenders again
When Steven Gerrard slipped and Demba Ba scored, it looked like the end of an impossible dream for Liverpool. The club never came back from that loss to Chelsea, and it eventually conceded the Premier League title to Manchester City. A repeat season never seemed in the cards, and it seemed even further in the distance after the sale of Luis Suarez to Barcelona.
But Liverpool has started the season brightly. The club had one of the hardest schedules in the league, opening home to Southampton, then traveling to the Etihad and White Hart Lane for matchups with defending champs City and the still-dangerous Tottenham. Six points from these three matches is a good result, and the underlying stats are even better.
Liverpool’s victory over Spurs at the weekend was thunderous, a 3-0 victory that could easily have been wider if new signing Mario Balotelli had worn his finishing boots. Spurs managed a few good opportunities to score but would have been very fortunate to find a result, given the number of quality chances shipped to Liverpool.
Is this just overrating Liverpool based on one excellent match? The other matches were a 3-1 loss to City and a less-than-commanding home win. While the Southampton result is not compelling evidence that the Reds are a top club, Southampton’s obliteration of West
Brom Ham at the weekend showed how good that side still is. And against City, the difference was much more the finishing of Stevan Jovetic and Sergio Aguero than the Citizens’ control of the match. City managed only two shots from the danger zone in the entire match, and the expected goals total was roughly even.
By my numbers, then, Liverpool has played an even match away to the defending champions and then won by a wide margin against a solid top four competitor in the last two weeks. Those are the performances of a possible title contender. It is too early to draw any firm conclusions, but Liverpool bear watching in the next few weeks to see if they can consolidate these gains.
Something might be wrong at Manchester City
Manchester City lost what should have been an easy victory, home to mid-table Stoke. The Potters did not create much beside one big chance breakaway by Mame Biram Diouf, but it was a perfect encapsulation both of the value of dribbling (watch him create space by going by Fernando) and speed of attack.
The real problem for Manchester City was that for the third game in a row, the club created few high-quality chances. Against Newcastle and Liverpool, the form of City’s strikers was enough to save a result. On Saturday the streak ended.
Overall, I have City with about 2.97 expected goals scored based on chances created. There were no three-match stretches last season in which City created under three expected goals. While again it is too early to say something is definitely wrong, it has been a worrying start.
It is certainly possible that this is nothing but a cold streak. Even in a championship season, City had stretches nearly this poor. But just like Liverpool, City’s attack bears watching to see if the side can turn things around, or if this slow start presages struggles to come.
The international break comes far too early
There will not be any European club football for two weeks now. That is too long to wait after such a fantastic weekend of matches.
All data provided by Opta unless otherwise noted.