14 June 2017

On Liverpool's 2017-18 PL Fixtures

Here's the actual game-by-game fixture list from the official site.

And a reminder: for comparable results between the three relegated and promoted clubs, it's in order of finish from last season. The 18th-placed side in 2016-17 matches up with last season's Championship winners, 19th with last season's runners-up, and 20th with the playoff winners. So, Hull = Newcastle, Boro = Brighton, and Huddersfield = Sunderland. It's certainly not perfect, but it's the closest we can get.

My initial thoughts:

It's finally sinking in that Liverpool are going to play a lot of games next season. Like, a lot; somewhere between 55-60 seems a safe guess, compared to last season's 47. But it'll take some doing to top the 63 in 2015-16, the joint-most Liverpool have played in one campaign (along with 2000-01, the cup treble season) since 1991-92. For comparison, Liverpool played 58 in 2014-15, 43 in 2013-14, 54 in 2012-13, 51 in 2011-12, and 54 in 2010-11. Weird how Liverpool's best two Premier League campaigns in the last eight seasons came the only times they've had fewer than 50 matches.

Even if Liverpool don't win their Champions League playoff, they'll drop into the Europa League. Plus, there's the League Cup. And when it looks as if the fixture list starts to ease in January, we'll have the FA Cup, potentially still the League Cup, and maybe even *crosses fingers* European knock-out rounds starting in February.


It feels like I should mention that Liverpool's squad wasn't even deep enough for 47 games last season.

But, on the whole, it seems a reasonably decent fixture list. The matches against last season's Top 7 are fairly spread out. There aren't any truly vicious back-to-back away matches. Liverpool start away from home for the third consecutive season, but against a side that'll have a new manager and almost certainly a fair amount of new players. Aside from away matches against United, Everton, and Chelsea, the final three months seem relatively tame, similar to last season's run-in where Liverpool won eight of the last 12, with three draws and a loss, to barely nudge their way into fourth.

Of course, as always with Liverpool, dig a little bit deeper and you start to worry.

Liverpool's matches prior to the all-important Champions League playoff round are Watford away and Palace at home. An away match to start then a fixture that Liverpool lost last season, against a side that somehow, bafflingly, often causes Liverpool problems.

The subsequent matches following European competition – whether it's the Champions League or Europa League – are Arsenal away, Burnley at home, Newcastle away, Tottenham away, West Ham away, Chelsea at home, and Everton at home.

Four matches against last season's top seven sides, two away and two at home. Four matches away, four at Anfield. Liverpool's record in those fixtures last season was 4W-2D-2L (remember, Newcastle away = Hull away and let's not talk about Hull away any more than we have to), which is more than decent (a 2.25 ppg average), but will also be hard to replicate. Arsenal's going to be better. Liverpool barely won against Burnley. An away match against a promoted side. Tottenham. One of Liverpool's bogey opponents. Last season's runaway league winners. And a Merseyside Derby.

There's only one back-to-back against sides from last season's Top Six, but it's a home match against Manchester United followed by a trip to Tottenham, with one of those European matches will be sandwiched in between. Liverpool play Arsenal in the third Premier League match and City in the fourth Premier League match, but there's an international break in between.

So let's also mention those international breaks. We get one before facing City. We get another before facing United. There will be matches against Southampton (H) and Crystal Palace (A) after internationals later in the season. And it will be hard to top Liverpool's record following internationals in 2016-17, when they beat Leicester and Everton at home, and drew with United and Southampton, two 0-0s that probably should have been wins.

And there's the small matter of December. There will be eight matches. Eight. Maybe nine; the League Cup schedule hasn't been announced yet, if Liverpool get that far (which they have in the last three seasons). There wasn't a League Cup game in December last season – Liverpool beat Leeds at the very end of November before resuming in January – but there was one in the first week of December in 2015-16 and second week of December in 2014-15.

But the Boxing Day – New Year's stretch isn't wholly awful. Swansea (H), Leicester (H), Burnley (A). Two home games and a short away trip and – for what little it's worth, at least last season – against sides who finished 12th, 15th, and 16th in 2016-17. Last season's holiday week was Stoke (H), City (H), Sunderland (A). 2015-16 was Leicester (H), Sunderland (A), West Ham (A). And I suspect you still remember 2013-14: City (A), Chelsea (A), and Hull (H), the first two ending in 1-2 losses which very, very much made a difference at the end of the season.

It does look better once Liverpool get through what will inevitably be the winter of our discontent. Liverpool went unbeaten in what will be next season's final 16 fixtures in 2016-17: from Manchester City at Anfield (a 1-0 win) through a victory over the second Promoted Championship side to close the campaign. 11 wins and five draws, an average of 2.38 points per game.

Of course, Liverpool almost certainly won't replicate that run. And, ideally, Liverpool will have more matches than those listed above, preferably the Champions League knock-out rounds but possibly the Europa League, and maybe an FA Cup run, and maybe the League Cup semi-finals and final.


But there really is little point worrying about the fixture list. Liverpool will play all 19 other teams twice. There will be cup matches, more than usual thanks to Europe, but that goes along with actually being good at the football.

Last season, we freaked out about playing top sides away from home early, and Liverpool beat both Arsenal and Chelsea and drew with Tottenham. We freaked out about the comparable run-in results – Liverpool were winless in the final six equivalent fixtures from 2015-16 – and Liverpool ended winning four, drawing once, and losing once in last season's last six matches to cement that Champions League qualifying place.

Once the season starts, you can only beat what's directly in front of you. You have to manage the inevitable fixture congestion and injuries. You have to be better than you were the season before, and we're all still well aware where Liverpool still need to improve.

And I can't believe we still have two months before it starts.


Adam Bowen said...

It looks like you've got 20 home games vs 18 away. I'm guessing the mistake is in that stretch of four home games around New Years?

nate said...

Yeah I just boned up the January 1 game in the first graphic; no idea why. Results graphic and post text are fine (I think).

Thanks much.

drew said...

I'm sure I'll regret thinking this later on, but it seems like it could be so much worse.