Coutinho will be expected to be a big player for Liverpool this year. (Image from Goal.com)

Note: This article is focusing on defining statistical targets, based on past data, for Liverpool to achieve 4th this season. It is NOT an article explaining who we should sign to get 4th or if Rodgers is the right person to lead us to 4th, both are highly subjective topics.

December 9th 2009, the last time Liverpool played a game in the Champions League. A 2-1 loss to Fiorentina saw the Reds drop out of the competition at the group stage after amassing only 7 points. Now nearly four years since that match, the club are still pushing to get back into a competition we were regular challengers in. Rafa Benitez, Roy Hodgson and Kenny Dalglish have all tried and failed to qualify in that time and have all since left the club. What do Liverpool need to do to get back to where they belong and how far away are they? 

The Past and Present

The 2012/13 season saw FSG appoint Brendan Rodgers as the man to take Liverpool back to the Champions League. Whether this was the right decision or he is the man for the job is an argument for another article, but those that follow me on Twitter (@scottifyfc) will know I am a big fan of Rodgers and the work he’s doing. Rodgers was brought in to improve Liverpool after a disappointing season in the league, in 2011/12 under Dalglish. Looking at the stats below comparing the league finishers from Dalglish’s last season and Rodgers first undeniably shows there was improvement made.

The difference between Liverpool’s last two Premier League campaigns.

Under Rodgers Liverpool saw the points total increase from 52 to 61, a 17.3% improvement. The club clocked up 2 more wins going from 14 to 16 with an improvement of 14.2%. Our defeats decreased by 35.7% from 14 to 9 while the number of draws increased from 10 to 13, an increase of 30% (whether that is in a improvement is open to debate but coupled with the decrease in defeats it is 3 points gained).

Much has been made of our increase in goals under Rodgers with his side scoring 71 compared to the 47 under Dalglish (1 less than relegated Blackburn), an impressive increase of 51%. Liverpool did concede more under Rodgers though with a 7.5% increase of goals against, but coupled with the goals scored, the goal difference itself makes for much better reading, going from 7 to 28 with a staggering increase of 300%.

The Standard

To obtain 4th place, we must look at the competition and the teams we are looking to replace in the Champions League. Over the past five years the top of the league has been broken up into two mini leagues of three teams each. The first is those going for the title, United, City and Chelsea. The second is those going for the Champions League, Arsenal and Spurs are mainstays in that with Newcastle, Everton and Liverpool all taking their place as the third team at different times.

In the past five years only Arsenal or Spurs have finished in 4th place and are likely going to be the two main contenders again this season. By looking at their end of season totals over the past five years we can generate a target for what the club needs to achieve this season to challenge for 4th and a place in the Champions League.

The past five 4th place finishes in the Premier League.

The Target

First of all there is the points total. In the past five seasons the average points total for finishing 4th is 70 (rounded from 70.4). 70 points in three out of those five season would have seen the club finish 4th. Last season the club obtained 61 points meaning there will need to be an increase of 14.75% to hit the 70 mark. While more points will undoubtedly secure 4th or even higher, gaining 70 points for the 2013/14 season would see Liverpool, at the very least, competing for 4th place going into the last games of the season.

From the points total highlighted we now need to focus on where those points will come from. Last season the club obtained 16 wins and as seen from the table above we will need to improve on that to have a shot at 4th. The average win count over the past five seasons was 20 (rounded from 20.2). Winning that amount of games over the course of a season would see 60 points gained, 85.7% of the total points needed to challenge for 4th place. 

Last season we lost 9 games and the average defeat count over the past five seasons was 8. So from that we can see that it was not really loses that cost us points it was draws, something that was an issue under Rafa’s tenure as well. The average draw count from the table above was 10 (rounded from 9.8). Last season we drew 14 games under Rodgers. By increasing the amount of wins over the course of the season by 25% and reducing the amount of draws by 28.5% and defeats by 11%, we would see a side that is challenging for 4th place.

The goal difference is also a key area to look at. Last season we scored 71 goals which was 2.8% above the five season average of 69, one of the few aspects of last season that was equal or greater than Champions League place form. Liverpool conceded 43 goals last year, 6.9% less than the average of 40 (rounded from 39.8). This gave the Reds a goal difference of +28 in Rodgers first season, the average being +29 (rounded from +29.2), meaning that Liverpool would need their goal difference to increase by 3.6% to match top 4 form.

Last season Liverpool kept 16 clean sheets (42% of the 38 games played) 12.5% more than the five season average of 14. While this is no doubt an impressive stat it is an example of a statistic not painting the whole picture. Clean sheets are vital to a successful season but it is more important how many goals we concede when we do concede. 

The five season average for goals conceded was 1.046 goals per game, Liverpool’s total was 1.13 goals per game a difference of 8%. Conceding 1 goal less in a game like the 2-2 draw with Manchester City last year is more important than keeping a clean sheet in a 5-0 win against Swansea. A 2-1 win against City and a 5-1 win against Swansea would have seen Liverpool’s final points total increase by 2 (3.2%). That difference, repeated over the course of a season, is the kind of improvement needed to push for 4th place.

Taking the data highlighted in the paragraphs above I have created a projected table of what Liverpool need to finish the season with to challenge for 4th. 

Liverpool’s targeted finish for next season to compete for with the likes of Arsenal and Spurs for 4th. 

John W Henry has said he has ‘very high expectations’ for the club this season ‘higher than they were last year’. Looking at the improvements made in the past 12 months and the measurable targets highlighted in this article, he has every reason to be optimistic. If they do reach this target and even exceed it, then it will be the most successful season since 2008/09 for different reasons and shows signs of major long term improvements from Rodgers and FSG. The club can only control their own future and while the target may not guarantee Champions League football it will show that Liverpool are ready to compete and been seen as genuine rivals to Arsenal and Spurs. 

1. Manchester City

2. Chelsea

3. Manchester United

4. Tottenham

5. Arsenal

6. Liverpool

7. Everton

8. Southampton

9. Swansea

10. West Ham

11. Newcastle United

12. West Brom

13. Aston Villa

14. Norwich City

15. Fulham

16. Sunderland

17. Cardiff City

18. Stoke City

19. Crystal Palace

20. Hull City

Not sure I buy the whole we stood by Suarez so he should show us more respect argument. While we did stand him during the racisim, handshakes, t-shirts, diving and biting incidents. It’s not like we did it solely for the player, we obviously had our own motives. 

Liverpool are not the club they once were in terms of challenging at the top and the people in charge will know that. Liverpool needed Suarez more than Suarez needed Liverpool (until recently) and as a result we had no choice but to stand by him. If we hadn’t he could have left in January 2012 or the summer last year at a time that would have been devastating to the first team.

When you are a club at the top you can deal with players differently but even the likes of United have had these issues. Look at Rooney, wanted to leave a couple of years ago but United gave him everything he wanted to keep him as they had no one at the club in that position like him. Fast forward to this summer and United are not playing the game the same way. Why? Because now they have Van Persie, Rooney is not as integral as he was before. 

The same applies for Liverpool, pushing Suarez out the club last year would have been disastrous as we had no one else. Now we have Sturridge and Coutinho (two players that combined make up for any loss of Suarez) we can afford to let him go, for the right price and to the the right club (Sorry Arsenal not you). 

Luis Suarez has let down the club with his recent comments but they are nothing new. It is short sighted to say he should be showing more respect to the club BECAUSE they stood by him. We stood by him because we rightly or wrongly we felt we had to, now that has changed Suarez because nothing more than an asset that can be sold.

Rafa Benitez ‘Champions League Dreams’
Last night I had the honour and privilege of meeting Rafa Benitez. Not only one of the best mangers to take charge of Liverpool but one of the best modern managers around and also a personal hero of mine. The man is an absolute legend.
Last night he talked about his new book ‘Champions League Dreams’ showing his passion, intelligence, knowledge, conviction and even humour for his career in football. The event was hosted by The Times in a Q&A format with the questions coming from fellow red and football Editor at The Times, Tony Evans. Both Evans and Rafa were great with the latter garnishing chants, cheers and songs from a smartly dressed crowd in London. 
After the Q&A Session, I (along with the Blackpool supporting Adam Kinder) queued up to get my book signed (see above) and meet Rafa. There was not much time as there were a lot of people to get through and at one point it looked like we may miss out, but finally I got to the front to meet the big man.
I walked up to him said ‘Hi Rafa’ as he extended his hand to me, which I shook instantly. As he was signing my copy of his book I simply said ’ It is an absolute pleasure to meet you Rafa’ and replied ’ You too Scott’. We both smiled, shook hands again, this time me instigating and I said ‘Thanks Rafa’ and left, with my signed copy of the book in hand.
I realise I sound like a bit of a fangirl in that interaction but Rafa is one of my heros and to meet the man was something I will take with me to the day I die, no matter how brief the meeting was.
Thank you Rafa for everything you did at Liverpool, giving me some of the happiest days of my life as a football fan. Thank you for writing the book with the wonderful Rory Smith. Thank you for being so warm and engaging during the Q&A session and staying around to sign copies for everyone that queued up. Overall thank you for being you Rafa, for standing up for what was right, defending the clubs honour and standing up to those that tried to bully you be it fans, press, managers or owners. You will always be a father of Liverpool and I hope one day in the future you and our great club cross paths again.
Thank You Rafa Rafa Benitez ‘Champions League Dreams’
Last night I had the honour and privilege of meeting Rafa Benitez. Not only one of the best mangers to take charge of Liverpool but one of the best modern managers around and also a personal hero of mine. The man is an absolute legend.
Last night he talked about his new book ‘Champions League Dreams’ showing his passion, intelligence, knowledge, conviction and even humour for his career in football. The event was hosted by The Times in a Q&A format with the questions coming from fellow red and football Editor at The Times, Tony Evans. Both Evans and Rafa were great with the latter garnishing chants, cheers and songs from a smartly dressed crowd in London. 
After the Q&A Session, I (along with the Blackpool supporting Adam Kinder) queued up to get my book signed (see above) and meet Rafa. There was not much time as there were a lot of people to get through and at one point it looked like we may miss out, but finally I got to the front to meet the big man.
I walked up to him said ‘Hi Rafa’ as he extended his hand to me, which I shook instantly. As he was signing my copy of his book I simply said ’ It is an absolute pleasure to meet you Rafa’ and replied ’ You too Scott’. We both smiled, shook hands again, this time me instigating and I said ‘Thanks Rafa’ and left, with my signed copy of the book in hand.
I realise I sound like a bit of a fangirl in that interaction but Rafa is one of my heros and to meet the man was something I will take with me to the day I die, no matter how brief the meeting was.
Thank you Rafa for everything you did at Liverpool, giving me some of the happiest days of my life as a football fan. Thank you for writing the book with the wonderful Rory Smith. Thank you for being so warm and engaging during the Q&A session and staying around to sign copies for everyone that queued up. Overall thank you for being you Rafa, for standing up for what was right, defending the clubs honour and standing up to those that tried to bully you be it fans, press, managers or owners. You will always be a father of Liverpool and I hope one day in the future you and our great club cross paths again.
Thank You Rafa Rafa Benitez ‘Champions League Dreams’
Last night I had the honour and privilege of meeting Rafa Benitez. Not only one of the best mangers to take charge of Liverpool but one of the best modern managers around and also a personal hero of mine. The man is an absolute legend.
Last night he talked about his new book ‘Champions League Dreams’ showing his passion, intelligence, knowledge, conviction and even humour for his career in football. The event was hosted by The Times in a Q&A format with the questions coming from fellow red and football Editor at The Times, Tony Evans. Both Evans and Rafa were great with the latter garnishing chants, cheers and songs from a smartly dressed crowd in London. 
After the Q&A Session, I (along with the Blackpool supporting Adam Kinder) queued up to get my book signed (see above) and meet Rafa. There was not much time as there were a lot of people to get through and at one point it looked like we may miss out, but finally I got to the front to meet the big man.
I walked up to him said ‘Hi Rafa’ as he extended his hand to me, which I shook instantly. As he was signing my copy of his book I simply said ’ It is an absolute pleasure to meet you Rafa’ and replied ’ You too Scott’. We both smiled, shook hands again, this time me instigating and I said ‘Thanks Rafa’ and left, with my signed copy of the book in hand.
I realise I sound like a bit of a fangirl in that interaction but Rafa is one of my heros and to meet the man was something I will take with me to the day I die, no matter how brief the meeting was.
Thank you Rafa for everything you did at Liverpool, giving me some of the happiest days of my life as a football fan. Thank you for writing the book with the wonderful Rory Smith. Thank you for being so warm and engaging during the Q&A session and staying around to sign copies for everyone that queued up. Overall thank you for being you Rafa, for standing up for what was right, defending the clubs honour and standing up to those that tried to bully you be it fans, press, managers or owners. You will always be a father of Liverpool and I hope one day in the future you and our great club cross paths again.
Thank You Rafa

Rafa Benitez ‘Champions League Dreams’

Last night I had the honour and privilege of meeting Rafa Benitez. Not only one of the best mangers to take charge of Liverpool but one of the best modern managers around and also a personal hero of mine. The man is an absolute legend.

Last night he talked about his new book ‘Champions League Dreams’ showing his passion, intelligence, knowledge, conviction and even humour for his career in football. The event was hosted by The Times in a Q&A format with the questions coming from fellow red and football Editor at The Times, Tony Evans. Both Evans and Rafa were great with the latter garnishing chants, cheers and songs from a smartly dressed crowd in London. 

After the Q&A Session, I (along with the Blackpool supporting Adam Kinder) queued up to get my book signed (see above) and meet Rafa. There was not much time as there were a lot of people to get through and at one point it looked like we may miss out, but finally I got to the front to meet the big man.

I walked up to him said ‘Hi Rafa’ as he extended his hand to me, which I shook instantly. As he was signing my copy of his book I simply said ’ It is an absolute pleasure to meet you Rafa’ and replied ’ You too Scott’. We both smiled, shook hands again, this time me instigating and I said ‘Thanks Rafa’ and left, with my signed copy of the book in hand.

I realise I sound like a bit of a fangirl in that interaction but Rafa is one of my heros and to meet the man was something I will take with me to the day I die, no matter how brief the meeting was.

Thank you Rafa for everything you did at Liverpool, giving me some of the happiest days of my life as a football fan. Thank you for writing the book with the wonderful Rory Smith. Thank you for being so warm and engaging during the Q&A session and staying around to sign copies for everyone that queued up. Overall thank you for being you Rafa, for standing up for what was right, defending the clubs honour and standing up to those that tried to bully you be it fans, press, managers or owners. You will always be a father of Liverpool and I hope one day in the future you and our great club cross paths again.

Thank You Rafa

Documentary casting new light on the Hillsborough disaster. 96 football fans lost their lives as a result of crushing, but the police blamed the fans themselves for the tragedy.

Lucy Hester speaks to police officers, Hillsborough victims’ families and a Sun journalist about claims that South Yorkshire Police covered up the full story of the tragedy.

Brendan Rodgers held court in the press room at Melwood on Thursday with representatives from a range of LFC fan sites, blogs, fanzines, podcasts and other ‘non-traditional’ media groups. The full audio of the session is available to download in all the usual places for TAW’s podcasts but due to popular demand we’re also providing the following transcript. Plenty to read, starting with the manager’s answers to questions about how the transfer window went.

Read full transcript on The Anfield Wrap

Brendan Rodgers reaction to Sahin and Gerrard being caught out as the attacking 2 in a midfield 3 against Arsenal.

Brendan Rodgers reaction to Sahin and Gerrard being caught out as the attacking 2 in a midfield 3 against Arsenal.

Brendan Rodgers Interview Part 2 (Redmen TV Exclusive)

Following the closure of the transfer window, and the much reported events surrounding the club, Brendan Rodgers sat down for an exclusive, candid interview on his vision for Liverpool, the importance of youth, how he intends to cope after missing out on Dempsey/loaning out Carroll, the genius of Joe Allen, plans for Lucas and much more…

Brendan Rodgers Interview Part 1 (Redmen TV Exclusive)

Following the closure of the transfer window, and the much reported events surrounding the club, Brendan Rodgers sat down for an exclusive, candid interview on his vision for Liverpool, the importance of youth, how he intends to cope after missing out on Dempsey/loaning out Carroll, the genius of Joe Allen, plans for Lucas and much more…