Jürgen Klopp’s men have hit the ground running at Anfield in 2023-24, but will their away form be good enough to mount a Premier League title challenge?
Another game at Anfield on Sunday, another three points for Liverpool. On paper, a home game with Brentford may have seemed fairly routine to some, but Thomas Frank’s team came within minutes of winning at Old Trafford just a few weeks ago, before beating Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
In fact, it was only the second time Brentford had lost an away game in the Premier League by more than a single goal since the start of November 2022 (19 games), with the only other occurrence being a 2-0 defeat at Wolves in April.
But ‘Fortress Anfield’ is more than just a moniker these days. When Jürgen Klopp’s side play at home, they usually win and hardly ever lose, and so it proved as they ran out 3-0 victors.
A frankly bizarre period during the 2020-21 season that saw Liverpool lose six home games on the spin is such a strange anomaly to an otherwise near faultless recent record that scholars may well study it in centuries to come.
After a 2-1 defeat to Crystal Palace in April 2017, Liverpool did not lose a home game in the Premier League again until January 2021 when they were beaten 1-0 by Burnley. Despite having gone undefeated at Anfield for an incredible 68 games (55 wins, 13 draws), they went on to lose six in a row, also falling to Brighton, Manchester City, Everton, Chelsea and Fulham before finally getting back on track. That season was strange all round for Liverpool, even though they recovered to finish third. With no fans allowed in stadiums until the very last game due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many believed it impacted Liverpool more than any other team, and the results appeared to suggest the same.
That theory has arguably been further cemented by the fact that, since the loss to Fulham in March 2021, Liverpool have only been beaten once more at Anfield in 48 league games (W37 D10) – a 2-1 defeat against Leeds United last season, making that the only home league game in front of fans they have lost since April 2017.
If you’re still following all these numbers, that means if you only include games in which fans have been present at Anfield, Liverpool’s record since that loss to Crystal Palace – so long ago that Nathaniel Clyne and Lucas Leiva were still featuring for them – is played 103, won 82, drawn 20, lost one (including the three games in the middle of the 2020-21 season when 2,000 fans were allowed in, W2 D1).
Not only has their relentless home form carried on into this season, but they may well have stepped it up even further. Sunday’s victory over Brentford meant Liverpool have won all nine of their home games in all competitions this season, all by a margin of two or more goals. It is the joint-longest home winning run by 2+ goals in the club’s illustrious history (also nine from May to October 1980).
They must surely be in the reckoning for this season’s Premier League title, right? Well, they sit just a point off leaders Manchester City after 12 games, but the Opta supercomputer gives them just a 9.1% chance of winning their 20th league title this season (as of 14 November), with Man City still heavy favourites at 84.6% despite dropping two points at Chelsea on Sunday.
That is obviously influenced by City’s form in recent seasons, winning five of the last six Premier League titles and each of the last three. Pep Guardiola’s men are hoping to make history by becoming the first English team to win four top-flight titles in a row, but Liverpool and Klopp are of course the only ones to have stopped them in the last six years.
Something the Merseyside club will need to improve if they are to push City again though is their away form. Impeccable home form is one thing, but it only makes up half the league campaign. The other half is on the road, where Liverpool have wobbled quite a bit recently.
In their six away games in the Premier League in 2023-24, they have won just two (D3 L1). Their only loss came with the asterisk of Luis Díaz’s goal at Tottenham being wrongly disallowed, but draws at the great entertainers Chelsea, as well as Brighton and Luton all came with some concerns around the performances. Victories against Newcastle United and Wolves showed impressive grit and spirit, though in both instances they started slowly and had to come from behind, scoring their winners very late on.
In cup competitions, Liverpool also had to come from behind to beat LASK 3-1 in the UEFA Europa League but were beaten by Toulouse after a poor showing in France. The recent 2-1 win at Bournemouth in the EFL Cup is one of only two trips (out of nine in all competitions) for Klopp’s men that hasn’t seen them concede the first goal this season.
On the road last season in the Premier League, Liverpool lost more than they won (L8 W6 D5), and conceded more than they scored (30-29), meaning they have won just eight of their last 25 away games in the league, losing nine and drawing eight.
However, that somewhat ignores the significant signs of overall improvement that have been shown by Klopp’s men this season compared to last, especially after the midfield was overhauled in the summer.
It wasn’t long ago that Liverpool were almost as ruthless on the road as back home. In 2021-22, they won 13 of their 19 away games (D4 L2) as they ran Man City close yet again in the title race, ultimately only missing out by a point despite amassing 92.
Any challenger may need to go at a similar rate again, and to match that output Liverpool would need to win 11 of their remaining 13 games on the road and draw at least one of the other two. That also works out if you look at the average number of away wins for the Premier League title winner over the last five years (13.2), the average number of away losses (2.2) and draws on the road (3.6). It should be noted that Man City ‘only’ won 11 of their 19 away games last season though, losing four and drawing four.
On average across the last five seasons, the league winner has scored 37.4 away goals and conceded 13. Liverpool have so far scored 10 in six games and conceded eight.
Last season, Liverpool failed to win any of their first five away games (D2 L3) and did not win away against a team in the bottom half of the table until mid-April when they thrashed Leeds 6-1. It won’t take much to improve on that, but they also can’t afford too many more off days away from Anfield.
Next up, the small matter of Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium. Beyond that, though, their away games come against Sheffield United, Crystal Palace, Burnley and Bournemouth, arguably a perfect opportunity to find some consistency away from home to mount a title challenge.
Looking at the home records of the last five title winners, the average is 16.2 wins, 1.2 draws and 1.6 losses, so if Liverpool can keep their Anfield form up and beat that average then perhaps there may even be some leeway with the away record, but they won’t want to risk missing out narrowly as they have on several occasions in recent seasons.
That said, City have won all 15 of their home league games in 2023. In fact, they’ve won all 23 of their home games in all competitions in this calendar year, so it seems if anyone is to push them all the way, they’ll probably have to equal or better City’s away form. The record currently reads won four, drawn one, lost two in 2023-24 to date.
Winning almost every game at home is a good way to put yourself in the conversation for silverware, and few look as comfortable on home soil as Liverpool right now. They are certainly improved from last season and the building blocks seem to be there as things take shape under Klopp.
Alisson Becker and Virgil van Dijk in particular have started the campaign well at the back; Alexis Mac Allister, Dominik Szoboszlai and Ryan Gravenberch have each shown what they can add in midfield; while in attack Liverpool have riches that will be the envy of Europe. Every single one of their 18 games in all competitions this season has seen at least one of their five senior forwards score. In total, the ‘Fab Five’ have already hit 35 goals between them (Salah – 12, Diogo Jota – 8, Darwin Núñez – 7, Luis Díaz – 4, Cody Gakpo – 4).
Anfield believes in ‘Liverpool 2.0’, but if they have aims of truly competing in this season’s title race, they will have to show that same improvement more often away from home comforts.