Liverpool’s chief aim heading into the new season was to retain a top-flight title for the first time since 1984, and so far, despite several injury setbacks, they are on track.
But with almost two-thirds of the season still to be played, the number of games that have been completed before Christmas makes the proportion of the campaign that has been played deceiving.
That said, while Liverpool remain favourites to win the league, there are a few other sides who are being tipped to compete.
Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City are perhaps the most obvious of those, but the numbers show that there are another couple of teams – Aston Villa and Manchester United – who are also currently among the best teams in the country.
“If you look at expected goals for minus expected goals against per 90 minutes, Liverpool’s expected goal difference is the best in the league, marginally ahead of City,” said Josh Williams on the Analysing Anfield podcast.
“Aston Villa are next and then Chelsea, and then there is quite a gap to fifth, sixth and seventh – Brighton, Manchester United and Leicester.
“Villa are currently shooting more than any other team – 15.9 shots per game, which is ahead of City and Liverpool, both on 15.2. But the thing with Villa is that the xG difference captures the level of performance to an extent, but not the player quality.
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“Brighton are posting roughly the same xG values as Manchester United, but United have just got better players who are putting the ball in the net.”
So while Aston Villa’s numbers are excellent, it is United who are converting their good positions into goals, and who look the most likely for that to be sustained over the remainder of the season.
“United have got goals and they have got options – virtually no other team around the hour mark can bring on Edinson Cavani, Paul Pogba and Donny van de Beek,” Williams added.
“They can change games and Bruno Fernandes is an absolute output merchant, so when it comes to finding the net, they have a lot of answers.
“One massive issue with Spurs, for example, is that if Harry Kane and Heung-min Son don’t find the back of the net, Spurs probably aren’t going to.
“The number of goals a team score tends to equal the number of points they accumulate over a season.”
Jose Mourinho’s side have looked good so far this season, and almost took a point home to London from Anfield before Christmas, but their reliance on star forwards Kane and Son could be their downfall.
Manchester United, though, have the numbers of attackers that mean they could fire themselves closer to a title challenge than many might think.
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“I saw United last week against Everton in the League Cup quarter-final and both teams are near each other in the table, but United just looked the next level,” added David Hughes.
“They are strange because they get a lot of stick but I would tip them for at least top three or top four.”
Liverpool host Manchester United at Anfield on January 17 by which time both sides are scheduled to have played another two league fixtures.
There are currently two points between the rivals.