The success a football team enjoys can only truly be measured by what they achieve between their first match in August and their final one in May.
But it can still be insightful to look at longer term trends to get a better picture of the overall health of a side over a greater period of time.
An interesting statistic was doing the rounds on social media once the 2020/21 campaign had drawn to a close. Over the previous three seasons, both Liverpool and Manchester City earned exactly 265 points.
As Pep Guardiola’s side won two of the three Premier League titles available, they obviously had the better of this period.
Nonetheless, considering the amount of criticism the Reds have taken for their performance this season when 23 members of their squad have suffered injuries and collectively missed 340 matches in all competitions, it’s worth noting their form since the summer of 2018 has equalled the efforts of City.
After all, the Citizens were given a free pass for not keeping pace with Liverpool in 2019/20 simply because Aymeric Laporte was unavailable for 21 league matches.
What Jurgen Klopp wouldn’t have given to have only been without one of his senior centre-backs for roughly half of this season.
And even if we ignore the fitness issues with which Liverpool have had to deal with over the last eight months, it shouldn’t have been a surprise that they struggled a little this season.
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It has been a consistent theme across football history and has been seen repeatedly in the Premier League.
Bela Guttman had a managerial career which lasted four decades, with his most notable achievement winning back-to-back European Cups with Benfica in the early 1960s.
He famously believed that the third season for a team was fatal, as by that point a coach’s players have grown tired of listening to the same voice barking instructions at them, while opposing teams have had enough time to pinpoint and exploit weakness.
The best teams English football has seen in the modern era have fallen foul of this, even if describing their inevitable dips as ‘fatal’ is going too far.
Since the Premier League switched to being a 20-team league in the summer of 1995, no team has got at least 90 points for three seasons in a row. Only three have even managed it in back-to-back campaigns.
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Jose Mourinho’s first Chelsea side, powered by the initial spending onslaught of the Roman Abramovich era, earned 95 and 91 points in his first two seasons before collecting 83 in 2006/07.
It was a similar tale for Manchester City more recently. They collected 100 points in 2017/18 and 98 the following year, before dropping to 81 last season.
Liverpool’s own fall in performance in 2020/21 from the two 97+ point seasons which preceded it has been more severe, though the injuries go a long way towards explaining why it occurred.
As they were able to retain a spot in the top four, they have survived their issues without having to pay too high a price, even if they were unable to become the first Reds to retain the title since 1984.
As attention will swiftly turn to pondering what the Reds might be capable of achieving in 2021/22, it’s worth considering how their predecessors fared.
Chelsea didn’t improve hugely in the league in 2007/08, as they finished runners up for the second successive season, with only two points more than the year before.
However, they did also reach their first Champions League final, so it has to be considered a satisfactory campaign, even if trophies eluded them.
And you need no reminder of how City fared, as the campaign after their three-season burst was the one which has only just ended.
In the final 10 league matches of 2019/20, Guardiola’s side earned 24 points, while Liverpool have just closed off their current season with 26 from the last 30 available.
That is obviously not to say that the Reds will automatically bounce back and win the league next season, but it’s also fair to note that after their year three slump they appear to have put their house in order ahead of 2021/22.