When Liverpool dismantled Arsenal 5-1 in their final match of 2018, they opened up a nine-point lead on Manchester City, albeit with the champions having a game in hand. Thirty-nine days later, City caught up with Liverpool’s points tally and leapfrogged Jurgen Klopp’s men on goal difference, although the challengers to the crown are now the team with a game to spare. Nonetheless, the completion of what had seemed a daunting chase for Pep Guardiola’s side is a sure sign that, if the Merseysiders are to go on and win the Premier League this season, they will do it the hard way.
Following those lacklustre draws against Leicester and West Ham in recent days, Liverpool need to return to winning ways at home to Bournemouth on Saturday to dispel the growing number of doubters who are gleefully accusing them of bottling the title race. As ever since their promotion to the Premier League in 2015, the Cherries are exceeding expectations by motoring along comfortably in mid-table, having already taken one major scalp this season. Our statistical analysis examines the probability of Bournemouth perhaps becoming the latest team to halt Liverpool’s gallop.
Last six Premier League games
Liverpool: W3, D2, L1, F13, A8, Pts 11
Bournemouth: W2, D1, L3, F10, A11, Pts 7
Liverpool reached the midway point of the Premier League season having dropped just six points from 57 available and conceded seven goals across 19 games. In six matches since, they’ve dropped seven points from 18 on offer and shipped eight goals, keeping just a solitary clean sheet in a nervy 1-0 win over Brighton. Also, their last two matches have seen them squander four points from winning positions against Leicester and West Ham; they only relinquished a winning position to drop points in one game previously to that. Is this just a blip for the Reds or are their days at the top of the table numbered?
Bournemouth have generally wavered between the sublime and the ridiculous this season and their last six matches have captured that sense. Indeed, you could say that about their last two games, with a famous 4-0 thrashing of Chelsea followed by a tame 2-0 defeat away to Cardiff. The Cherries have also been beaten by Manchester United and an inconsistent Everton in recent weeks and have lost their last seven away matches in the Premier League, dating back to a 3-0 win at Fulham in October.
Premier League head-to-head record
Liverpool are going for their third double over Bournemouth in four Premier League seasons, having won both their games against the Cherries in 2015/16 and 2017/18, as well as romping to a 4-0 victory at the Vitality Stadium two months ago. The last three league meetings of their pair have all been emphatic victories for the Merseysiders, scoring 11 times without reply.
However, Bournemouth denied their illustrious opponents victory in both meetings during 2016/17, recording a dramatic 4-3 home win in which they twice came from two goals down and later drawing 2-2 at Anfield courtesy of a late equaliser. Of the seven goals scored by the Cherries against Liverpool in the Premier League, six came in that season.
Last Anfield meeting
Liverpool 3-0 Bournemouth, 14 April 2018
Having just outclassed Manchester City to reach the Champions League semi-finals and with their top four place all but assured, would the visit of Bournemouth be a case of ‘after the Lord Mayor’s show’ for Liverpool? Seven minutes was all it took for the answer to be delivered, with Sadio Mane firing the home side into an early lead on a sunny Saturday evening at Anfield.
The visitors kept the margin to a single goal until the 69th minute, when Mohamed Salah took his league tally for the season to 30. Bournemouth summoned a couple of late chances before, in added time, Roberto Firmino rounded off the scoring to keep the feel-good factor flowing around Anfield. It proved to be a crucial three points for Liverpool, who failed to win their subsequent three league games to end up in a final day battle with Chelsea for fourth place.
The Cherries’ Anfield returnees
No fewer than three members of Bournemouth’s squad return to Anfield after spending some of their careers at Liverpool. Two of those, Nathaniel Clyne and Dominic Solanke, made the move to the south coast just last month, the former signing on loan and the latter joining the Cherries in a £19 million deal. The other former Red is Jordon Ibe, scorer of the goal that gave Klopp a vital win in his early days as Liverpool manager in a Europa League clash against Rubin Kazan in November 2015 but ultimately a player who couldn’t fulfil his teenage potential. How have the trio fared for their new club in comparison to their time on Merseyside?
Ibe made 58 appearances in total for Liverpool, scoring four goals, all of them in the 2015/16 season, although just one was in the Premier League (against West Brom in a final day clash). That amounts to one goal every 14.5 games. Since joining Bournemouth in summer 2016, the 23-year-old has played 72 games for Eddie Howe’s team, with four goals to his name, an average of one every 18 appearances. Therefore, his goals-per-game ratio was slightly better during his time at Anfield, although it’s worth noting that he has played in a wing-back position at times this season.
For the other two ex-Reds, it’s hard to make a fair comparison as they’ve only been at Bournemouth a matter of weeks, but let’s look at the statistics anyway. Clyne has played four matches for his new club, in which they have conceded four goals (one per game) but kept two clean sheets. Having been ever-present in those four games, he has already racked up more Premier League minutes for the Cherries (360) than in the whole of last season and the first half of this season combined (282). He won’t feature tomorrow, though, as he is ineligible to play against his parent club.
Solanke may not have had the most encouraging of debuts for Bournemouth in last week’s defeat to Cardiff, but it was his first taste of any competitive first-team football since the final day of the 2017/18 Premier League season, when he scored his one and only Liverpool goal in 27 appearances in a 4-0 win over Brighton. Despite Bournemouth being his third professional club in England, that remains his only competitive goal in this country – the other seven came for Vitesse Arnhem during a loan spell in Eredivisie three years ago.