Is this year’s Liverpool squad one of the greatest soccer teams of all time?
According to ClubElo, the 2018-19 Liverpool squad’s peak score ranks as the sixth best ever.
That’s impressive company (and wow, Pep Guardiola). Let’s dive-deeper to see where Liverpool truly stacks up.
What is ClubElo?
First, for those unfamiliar, “Elo estimates the strength of a club based on the results against opponents and their strength.”
The site aims to look past point totals and trophies to zero in on how strong a team is compared to its peers in a given year.
After their Champions League victory on June 1st, Elo moved Liverpool up to the #6 spot, ahead of this year’s Manchester City.
The all-time Elo rating measures the peak strength of a given year’s team. This year’s Liverpool team hit their peak rating after defeating Tottenham for the UCL crown.
A more traditional case for Liverpool as sixth best team ever
Elo’s rankings measure a club’s statistical strengths against the strength of opposing teams. However, a more traditional case can be made for Liverpool’s elite standing as well.
- En route to their sixth Champions League title, Liverpool defeated the Bundesliga champs (Bayern Munich), Primeira runner-ups (FC Porto), and La Liga champs (Barcelona). All four of the squads rate among the top 17 clubs in FiveThirtyEight’s rankings. Elo rates those teams even stronger, with Barcelona (3), Bayern (4), Tottenham (5) and Porto (15) all in the top 15 at the end of the year.
- They finished with the third highest point total ever in Premier League history.
- They are one of only three teams to lose less than two matches in a Premier League season (Chelsea’s ’04-05 and Arsenal’s ’03-04 being the others).
- Their +67 Premier League point differential ranks 4th all-time.
A case for Liverpool being ranked higher?
Of the teams in the top 10, only two actually ended their season with their peak ranking: this year’s Liverpool and this year’s Manchester City.
Both teams were at their strongest in the midst of a historic Premier League title chase. While City bowed out in the Champions League quarterfinals to Tottenham, they managed to win a domestic treble, capturing the Carabao Cup, FA Cup, and Premier League title.
Liverpool, of course, pushed City to the brink in the Premier League while winning the world’s most difficult soccer event, the Champions League.
So while this year’s peak score might not equal some of the giants ahead of them, is there a case that Liverpool was ultimately a better team? Here’s a look at how the teams ranked ahead of Liverpool finished their seasons:
- 2012 Barcelona: Fewer domestic points (91), greater goal differential (85, albeit in a less deep league), more domestic losses (3 total), and no La Liga title (they finished second). They did win the Copa del Rey, Supercopa, UEFA Super Cup, and FIFA Club World Cup.
- 2014 Bayern Munich: They won the Bundesliga along with
UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup. They bowed out in the UCL semis. While they had a slightly better goal differential than Liverpool domestically (70 to 67), they finished with fewer points (90) and more losses (2).
- 2014 Real Madrid: Finished third in La Liga with fewer domestic points (87), more losses and a worse goal differential (66, so by 1). Super elite offense with 104 domestic goals. Won the Copa del Rey and the 2014 Champions League.
- 1961 Real Madrid: Hard to compare but won a 30-game La Liga.
- 1993 AC Milan: They won Serie A which back then actually meant something. In a 34 game season, only had a +33 gd. They were runners up in the Champions League.
While this is subjective, yes, are any resumes above starkly more impressive than this year’s Liverpool (or Manchester City, for that matter)?
Premier League teams held all four spots in the Champions League and Europa League finals. The EPL was deep. Despite this, City and Liverpool had historically great seasons. On top of that, Liverpool beat Elo teams #3-5 to win the Champions League title.
Best team ever?
Had a ball traveled just 11 millimeters further across a goal line, 2018-19 Liverpool would’ve had a strong case for the best soccer team ever.
Even so, what the squad accomplished against a stacked Premier League and treacherous Champions League path is hard to ignore. Elo and basic common sense put the 2018-19 Liverpool squad as an absolute all-timer.