Tuesday, 29 October 2019

Liverpool by One.

Old style goals based analysis hardly gets a run out nowadays with everyone arguing xG strawmen. So, let’s go the goals route to see if Liverpool’s record in single goal margin wins is “knowing how to win”, “unsustainable” or “about what you’d expect”.

Liverpool won 10 games by a single goal margin last season. That’s a lot, but well below the single season record held by Manchester United of 16 in 2012/13 and 2008/09.

United’s number of single goal wins in those subsequent seasons fell to five and eight respectively (although something more impactful may have also occurred in 2013/14). Their points tally fell as well, by 25 points in 2013/14 and by 5 in 2009/10.

To dilute the Fergie/Moyes effect, let’s look at the average record in the next season of teams who won 10 or more games by a single margin.

There’s over 90 of them during the 20 team history of the Premier League and 80% of those had fewer wins by the narrowest possible of margins during their next Premier League season, 74% also saw their points total fall.

These teams who edged lots of close matches one season shed around 10% of their points in the next season.

Initially, it’s not looking too rosy for Liverpool’s ability to sustain these narrow wins.

However, there’s another factor to consider.

Single goal wins, on average account for 41% of a side’s Premier League points total, but in our sample of 90+ teams who won 10 or more, 80% of them accrued more than 41% of their points from such victories.

Everton won 76% of their 59 points in 2002/03 from single goal wins and then tried their very best to get relegated in 2003/04 as their “luck” in narrow games returned to earth and they won just 39 points.

In Liverpool’s case in 2018/19, one goal margin wins only accounted for 31% of their 97 points. Therefore, their ten such wins places them in a group of sides who typically regress, but the percentage of total points they win in this manner is entirely atypical of that group.

To see where Liverpool stand as being adept at winning single goal margin games, we need to look at their underlying goals record.

In 2018/19 they scored 89 and conceded 22, taking the Poisson route, that’s consistent with winning nine games by a single goal over 38 games. They won, as we’ve seen ten, hardly a worryingly large over-performance.

You can lump Liverpool in with a group of teams who have achieved good things, partly as a result of “knowing how to win” (Leicester 2015/16 spring to mind, 14 single goal wins where nine would have been a more equitable return), but unlike most of these sides, the Reds have the underlying numbers to deserve their record.

Expect a few more 2-1’s between now and May.

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