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Liverpool’s top 6 vs. bottom 6 problem – 27 points worse than Man City

Take from the rich and give to the poor, a sentiment that has never felt too far away under Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool, but how accurate is it?

Despite the thrill of the result that came before, there was a sense of foreboding for what was to come at Bournemouth – and, unfortunately, we got to see why.

An early Saturday kickoff, away from home and a team who started the day at the bottom of the Premier League table, a recipe for disaster when it comes to the Reds.

But since Klopp’s first full season at the helm in 2016/17, how does Liverpool’s record against the top six stack up against those in the bottom six?

 

What do the numbers say?

NOTTINGHAM, ENGLAND - Saturday, October 22, 2022: Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk (C) and captain Jordan Henderson (L) look dejected after a missed chance during the FA Premier League match between Nottingham Forest FC and Liverpool FC at the City Ground. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It’s easy to mentally prepare oneself for a clash against the heavyweights, the ones fighting for honours and places at the top of the table.

It’s another state of mind entirely to face off against those lower in the table, no matter how much you say out loud that they require just as much respect.

After the defeat at Bournemouth, Trent Alexander-Arnold said, “I think looking back on it now, they probably wanted it more than us and that is something that is unacceptable.”

Too right it is unacceptable, but it’s not the first time Liverpool have been accused of such – but how do the statistics stack up?

The following stats take into account Liverpool’s record against sides that finished in the top six and bottom six at the end of each season, while 2022/23 accounts for current standings as of March 13.

Unsurprisingly, Klopp’s side have taken more points from teams in the bottom six than those at the top, but not by an overwhelming margin:

Top Six – From 2016/17 to 2022/23

  • Games played: 67
  • Points: 124
  • Wins: 34
  • Losses: 11
  • Draws: 22

There is a 33-point difference in the head-to-head records against those at opposite ends of the table, largely thanks to the dominance against the lowly sides in 2018/19, 2019/20 and 2021/22.

As for win percentages, it’s 50.74 percent against teams who finished in the top six sides and 75.7 percent against those at the bottom:

Bottom Six – From 2016/17 to 2022/23

  • Games played: 66
  • Points: 157
  • Wins: 50
  • Losses: 9
  • Draws: 7

There are limitations to these stats in that it does not consider the table position at the time of the game, which we know can quickly change as proved by Nottingham Forest – who were last when they beat Liverpool in October and are now 14th.

But when looking at a direct comparison, Liverpool’s problem becomes obvious. In the same period of time, Man City accumulated 120 points against top six sides (four less than Liverpool), and 184 in the bottom six battles (27 more than the Reds).

One team has one title and the other has lifted four since 2016/17; the battle at the bottom cannot be underestimated.

With all that in mind, let’s take a closer look at this season.

 

Top of both, just!

If there’s anything that sums up the inconsistencies of this season, it is that Liverpool are two points clear in the top six mini-league but are just one point clear against those at the bottom.

Victories over Man City, Man United, Tottenham, and Newcastle (twice) have been coupled with defeats to Leeds and Bournemouth.

In a league with just Liverpool and the current bottom five, the Reds have picked up 12 of a possible 18, but they ought to be thankful the list no longer includes Forest and Wolves.

If we extend the net to the top half of the table and the bottom half of the table, Liverpool’s results look like this:

  • Top half: 6W, 3D, 4L (21 points)
  • Bottom half: 6W, 3D, 4L (21 points)

Twenty-one points apiece. The Reds really do like to take from the rich and give to the poor when the feeling strikes.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, March 5, 2023: A shirtless Liverpool's Mohamed Salah celebrates after scoring the sixth goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Manchester United FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 7-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It’s far from a resounding set of results, with Klopp’s men consistently inconsistent across the entire Premier League season to date.

That may look set to continue with an almost even spread of top and bottom teams in the final 12 games of the season, but could momentum come at just the right time?

On Liverpool’s return from the international break, they face Man City, Chelsea and Arsenal within the space of nine days – teams they should have no issue being mentally prepared for.

It will prove a defining run as we head into the final nine weeks of the campaign, and there will be a clear goal in sight.

BOURNEMOUTH, ENGLAND - Saturday, March 11, 2023: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp during the FA Premier League match between AFC Bournemouth and Liverpool FC at the Vitality Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The average points required to finish fourth in the Premier League over the last five seasons is 70 points, to hit that mark the Reds need 2.3 points per game – they are currently averaging 1.6.

And should they continue to take from the rich and redistribute the wealth further down the table, they only further serve their rivals in the battle for a top-four finish.