Simply put, there’s little margin for error in the top flight these days; excluding the aberration of last season where Man City lost six times en route to glory, the title winners in the preceding Premier League years lost three, four, two, five, three and three, dating back to 2015.
And it’s not just about not losing games, but not losing them early, as a revealing statistic shows.
BBC Sport investigated just how vital a fast start to the season has become in a Premier League title-winning season and the answer is very – there’s a three-in-four chance you’ll be celebrating in May if your team is top by October.
The study showed an astronomical increase in the Premier League era for teams winning the top-flight title if they were top in September, October or – most ominously – December, compared to the pre-1992 era of English football.
Since then, a massive 69% of teams top during September have gone on to claim the crown, and that jumps to a huge 76% for the team top in October.
Liverpool’s early 21/22 fixtures
- Norwich City – away – 14 August
- Burnley – home – 21 August
- Chelsea – home – 28 August
- Leeds United – away – 12 September
- Crystal Palace – home – 18 September
- Brentford – away – 25 September
- Manchester City – home – 3 October
- Watford – away – 16 October
- Manchester United – away- 24 October
- Brighton – home – 30 October
By Christmas, the matter is often all-but-wrapped up: 86% of teams top in December have gone on to become champions.
That was definitely the case for the Reds in our title-winning season of 2019/20, but – just to prove the exception to the rule – not last season.
Jurgen Klopp‘s side were three points clear at the top just after Boxing Day, before injuries and a wretched run of Anfield form put paid to hopes of retaining the crown.
Still, that was very much a one-off campaign, a historically bad home run of results and a crazy coincidence of positional fitness issues which all created a perfect storm, and the odds of history were otherwise in the Reds’ favour that they would have gone on to win a second successive title.
It underlines the importance of a number of aspects in the modern game: Pre-season preparations and selecting a team based on those performances and levels of fitness, game-winning squad options off the bench and the relentless consistency in finding a way to win that all the finest sides have.
Liverpool can lay claim to having positives in each of those areas, and particularly with one or two big players set to make a full recovery and return to peak fitness levels within a month or so of the season starting. And the opening three months of the season cannot be claimed to present Klopp’s squad with an unkind schedule, with the big games relatively spaced out and all three promoted teams in the first eight games.
First though, it’s Norwich, a trip to Carrow Road and a vital first three points as we look to top the table in October…and December, and May.