It´s often said that the first ten games indicates a team´s fate that season. Perhaps it´s true in some cases but I don´t necessarily agree. Nonetheless, it is interesting to look at what fate Liverpool could be facing in and after the upcoming first ten matches.
If you study last season only one team ended up in the same position after a full schedule as they held after ten games. That was Norwich in 18th place. All other teams were in different positions after 10 and 38 matches. Some of them in a vastly different one. The champions to be, Manchester City, lied fifth after ten games and Arsenal was top but dropped to fourth. Newcomers Crystal Palace propped up the table after ten matches but managed to climb to a final 11th place.
Liverpool was parked third after ten games so in that case the ten-game-theory was almost accurate. But even if the theory doesn´t always is right a good start to a season is always healthy and can´t be underestimated. For instance, Liverpool´s three initial wins last season was perfect confidence boosters and gave the team a push in the right direction. If it had been only four or five points then the title push would have been far more difficult to accomplish. And could easily have evaporated quickly.
Last season Liverpool won six of the first ten games, drew two, lost two and collected 20 points. A similar effort this time will do nicely. Can it be done? Well, let´s take a look at the forthcoming programme.
The first ten fixtures contains five home outings and five away. As it should be.
The start is pretty tough. First Southampton at home followed by two away encounters with Man City and Tottenham. I guess the Saints want to show they can match Liverpool after three players left St Marys for Anfield this summer. Man City away is always a stiff task, no Liverpool win in the league there since 2008, and Spurs is of course longing for a revenge after Reds 5-0 triumph at White Hart Lane last season. It all adds up to three really tricky tests. Last season Liverpool gained only three points from the corresponding fixtures, via the the Tottenham win. Hopefully it can be at least a couple more this time.
The following seven matches are, on paper, bar one, easier. But as always the contests are decided on grass, not paper. So all seven teams will surely prove to be tough hurdles to overcome.
The fourth match is Aston Villa at home and then follows West Ham away, Everton home, West Brom home, QPR away, Hull home and Newcastle away.
Villa at home looks like three points in the bag but the facts tell another story. It is four years since we beat them at home and in the meantime The Midlanders has clocked up two draws and a win. West Ham away is somewhat easier, at least statistically. Liverpool has won two on the trot at Boleyn Ground and picked up victories in four of the last five travels to London. And we probably don´t have to face our former fantastic (irony) forward Andy Carroll who is out injured for quite a while.
Everton at home is of course the pick of the seven-game-lot. Our 4-0 win last season was the biggest in 42 years and extended the sequence to 14 undefeated league matches at home against our arch rivals. Why not make it 15. But Everton will no doubt be a tough nut to crack. And like Tottenham, they´ve got revenge in their sights after the last annihilation.
West Brom, QPR and Hull is three winnable games, and they should be won. But there are always potholes in the road, could be one somewhere here. Newcastle at St James´s is not a walk in the park, not even a jog. The game in the north-east is more unpredicable than the weather. Liverpools last five vistits has resulted in two big wins, 5-1 and 6-0, two defeats, 0-2 and 1-3 and last season it ended all square, 2-2. I have a feeling that the Magpies is going to perform better this season, than last, so it will take a really good effort to snatch all the points.
This is how I think Liverpool will fare points-wise in the ten games:
Southampton 3, Man City 1, Tottenham 1, Aston Villa 3, West Ham 3, Everton 3, West Brom 3, QPR 1, Hull 3, Newcastle 1. In other words, six wins, four draws, no defeats and 22 points. Which would be a dream start, perfect for a title challenge. That is 2,2 points per game and if Liverpool keep that up the ultimate amount will be 84 points, consequently the same as last season.
Okay, I am probably overoptimistic, but then again, maybe not.
If Liverpool copies the results from last season´s corresponding fixtures, with the result against relegated Cardiff being transferred to newcomers QPR, the points tally would be 20. Funnily enough exactly the same sum that was collected in the first ten games last season against completely different opposition.
Whatever pans out during the first ten games, when the 11th comes around:
We Go Again.