The numbers that show Liverpool could have an edge in title race

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp celebrates at the end of the Premier League match at Anfield, Liverpool. Picture date: Sunday March 31, 2024
Will Jurgen Klopp lift the Premier League trophy for a second time? - PA/Peter Byrne

With nine games remaining of the Premier League campaign, the top three teams are separated by only three points. It is shaping up to be one of the greatest title races in Premier League history, with Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester City all sprinting for the line.

‌Here, Telegraph Sport assesses which team is best-placed to go all the way, based on four crucial categories: attacking firepower, defensive solidity, squad depth and the difficulty of their fixtures.

Attacking firepower

Mohamed Salah of Liverpool celebrates scoring his side's second goal during the Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Brighton & Hove Albion at Anfield on March 31, 2024 in Liverpool, England
Liverpool's direct attacking play could be crucial in deciding the Premier League winner - Getty Images/Chris Brunskill

Arsenal may have scored the most goals of any Premier League team this season but, when it comes to attacking firepower, it is Liverpool who look the most likely to blast their way to the league title.

If Arsenal and City can be described as attempting to unpick defensive locks in most of their games, then Liverpool’s approach is to blow that lock into pieces. So far this season they have taken 572 shots, almost 100 more than Arsenal, and have also created the most “big chances” (96) of the top three.

When Jürgen Klopp’s players see the goalposts, they invariably charge straight towards them or shoot from range. In the Premier League this season, they have averaged one shot for every 25 passes. Arsenal, by contrast, average a shot every 30 passes, while City average a shot every 34 passes.

Liverpool, in short, are significantly more direct than their two title rivals. They have produced 479 passing sequences of 10 or more passes this season, compared to Arsenal’s 531 and City’s 663.

A measure of City’s contrasting approach is that, despite playing at least 3,000 more passes than both Arsenal and Liverpool, they have played the fewest passes (including crosses) into the opposition penalty area.

Verdict: Liverpool’s attack is the most dangerous and effective

Defensive solidity

Arsenal's Brazilian defender #06 Gabriel Magalhaes (L) fights for the ball with Manchester City's Norwegian striker #09 Erling Haaland during the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Arsenal
Arsenal's defence snuffed out Manchester City's attack last weekend - AFP/Darren Staples

‌A consequence of Liverpool’s breathless approach is that they have far less control of matches than Arsenal and City. Their expected goals conceded this season is 35, which is considerably higher than City (28) and, especially, Arsenal (21).

Klopp’s side allow many more shots on their goal than Arsenal and City. Liverpool have faced 319 shots this season, compared to Arsenal’s 244 and City’s 238. While Arsenal and City generally look to suffocate their opponents, giving away nothing, Liverpool take a riskier approach by playing a more open game.

With William Saliba and Gabriel Magalhaes at the back, and Declan Rice patrolling the midfield in front of them, Arsenal have a powerful and settled defensive spine. They have kept the most clean sheets this season (12) and have a group of defensive players who are totally in tune with each other.

The one area in which City are significantly superior is at defensive set pieces. Excluding penalties, Pep Guardiola’s team have conceded only two goals from opposition set pieces this season. Arsenal have conceded five, while Liverpool have conceded seven.

Verdict: Arsenal’s defence is the tightest in the division

Squad depth

As it stands, Arsenal are only one player (Jurrien Timber) short of a full squad. While other teams in the division navigate injury crises, Arsenal are suddenly looking strong all over the pitch.

On Sunday, Mikel Arteta’s bench included the likes of Thomas Partey, Oleksandr Zinchenko, Leandro Trossard and Gabriel Martinelli. If these players can stay fit, Arsenal will have quality options in all positions.

City, on the other hand, are dealing with a pile-up of defensive injuries. Nathan Ake, Kyle Walker and Ederson are all currently unavailable, and John Stones is not fully fit either.

Liverpool have had more than their fair share of injury issues this season and are still a long way from full strength. Trent Alexander-Arnold, Alisson Becker, Diogo Jota, Thiago Alcantara and Joel Matip all remain out, although Andy Robertson and Curtis Jones are close to returning.

In terms of workloads, it is possible that the injuries suffered by Liverpool could ultimately help them in the final weeks of the season. Only one Liverpool player (Virgil van Dijk) has played more than 2,000 minutes of league football this season. Arsenal and City each have seven players with more than 2,000 league minutes under their belts.

Verdict: If Liverpool’s key men can return in time for the run-in, they could have the edge

Fixture list

For Arsenal, it is the remaining away games that will cause concern for their fans. Trips to Brighton, Wolves, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United will all be difficult, for different reasons, and that is before one considers the physical and mental impact of their Champions League quarter-final against Bayern Munich. A home match against Aston Villa, and former head coach Unai Emery, will also pose some awkward questions.

Liverpool’s fixture list is theoretically more kind, aside perhaps from away games against United and Villa. Klopp’s side also face Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United at home, but will feel confident against any opponent at Anfield. It remains to be seen how draining the Europa League, in the dreaded Thursday night slots, might turn out to be.

City, meanwhile, have what appears to be a presentable run of fixtures to conclude the campaign. As it stands (their trip to Spurs is still to be rearranged) their last four games are against Nottingham Forest, Wolves, Fulham and West Ham. Given their history of late-season charges, Guardiola has every reason to feel confident.

Verdict: City have the easiest run-in