Liverpool's strong start undermined by one unsustainable factor

To say that Liverpool have started the 2023/24 Premier League campaign well would be a bit of an understatement.

The Reds are unbeaten in five and have taken 13 points from a possible 15.

Only Manchester City (three) have conceded fewer goals than Jurgen Klopp’s men (four) and that defensive record is even more impressive when you consider the 2019/20 Premier League champions have been down to 10 men in two of the games while Ibrahima Konate, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Virgil Van Dijk – three-quarters of the starting back four – have all missed matches.

Liverpool are clicking in attack, too. Their tally of 12 goals can only be bettered by City (14), Spurs (13) and Brighton (15). We’re just five games into the season but the Reds have had seven different scorers with Darwin Nuñez, Mohamed Salah, Luis Diaz, Cody Gakpo, Diogo Jota, Dominik Szoboszlai and Andrew Robertson all finding the back of the net.

Klopp’s side have come from behind in three of their five games, showing great resilience to overturn deficits in different situations, with some claiming the 'mentality monsters' are back once again.

READ MORE: Are we seeing the return of Liverpool's 'mentality monsters'? 

It was a phrase used by the Liverpool manager during the 2018/19 campaign when his side kept finding ways to win to keep pressure on Manchester City during their pursuit of the title. The Reds lost one game that season in the Premier League and finished second with a ridiculous 97 points.

Having the mental fortitude to keep coming from behind to win matches is obviously a positive. As cliche as it sounds, it is the sign of champions. But there will come a point in which this particular run needs to be halted.

What I mean by that is, Liverpool can’t keep conceding the first goal and having to score a minimum of two to pick up three points. It isn’t sustainable.

You can get away with it in the short-term but eventually, the attack is going to misfire or an opposing goalkeeper will have a Man-of-the-Match showing and it’ll cost the Reds.

Obviously, the numbers paint a pretty picture right now.

Liverpool finished with an Expected Goals haul of 3.08 against Bournemouth having taken 26 shots and racked up four big chances on their way to a 3-1 win. The stats against Wolves were just as impressive with the Reds having 16 shots to the home side’s 11, four big chances to zero and finishing the game with an Expected Goals haul of 2.52, significantly higher than the total (0.63) amassed by the hosts.

Newcastle was a different story entirely with it being a smash and grab for the Reds. The Magpies had more shots and a higher Expected Goals total as they took full advantage of having the extra man for over an hour.

Darwin Nuñez

But game state comes into these metrics. For example, Bournemouth and Wolves scored inside of six minutes. They had a lead to hold onto and this altered their approach. Now, the Cherries did well for 20 minutes before sitting a little deeper and this coincided with Liverpool finding their feet in that game. When a team does drop off and look to soak up pressure, it is hard to get out of that mode and mindset when you do need to ramp it up.

Bournemouth and Wolves tried to defend their advantage rather than looking to add to it. They looked to counter on the break but they never really controlled the game or the tempo, and this allowed the Reds to dictate things and build momentum.

With Liverpool having over 65% possession in both matches, their attacking numbers are going to look good. With a lot of possession comes a lot of shots, generally speaking. And every shot adds to the Expected Goals total. With enough shots, the Expected Goals haul is going to look favourable.

READ MORE: Salah x Nuñez partnership gives Liverpool an unpredictable danger this season

Liverpool best game of the season was against Aston Villa. The hosts scored early and then controlled every aspect of the game. They limited their opponents and imposed their dominance on them in the final third to finish the game with five big chances to zero in a 3-0 win.

That sort of performance is sustainable. That sort of performance is what Klopp’s side regularly produced across the 2018/19 and 2019/20 campaigns as they put together back-to-back 90+ points Premier League campaigns.

The sooner the Reds get back to that, the more convincing they will be and the more likely it is that they are going to claim a top-four spot, perhaps even pushing for the title.

However, while they continue to concede first, the threat remains that this bubble could burst sooner rather than later.

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