Much has been made of the Andre Villas-Boas and Brendan Rodgers revolutions at Tottenham and Liverpool, having replaced Harry Redknapp and Kenny Dalglish respectively, but if questions of playing style and the vague notion of 'projects' are put aside, have either side, up to this point, really improved on last season? talkSPORT look at the facts...
The table doesn't lie
Tottenham are currently fourth in the Premier League table, the same place they finished last season. However, this time last year, Spurs were still in the mix for a title challenge which, although it faded against the back drop of Redknapp's court case and speculation surrounding the England job, was justifiable considering their third placed position in the league. In fact, Spurs weren't only better in terms of their league position, but across the board in terms of their points tally, and home and away win record.
In 2011/12, Tottenham had amassed 49 points at this stage in the season, turning White Hart Lane into a formidable fortress with nine of their 15 wins at home, while a respectable six came on the road. Four draws and four losses completed the rest of their fixtures, with 44 goals scored and 25 conceded.
This season, Spurs have amassed only 41 points, and while they have proven equally capable of winning at home and away, with six on the road and six at home, that doesn't match up to their impressive win record at this stage last season. They have also drawn and lost more games, with five and six respectively. They also seem to be regressing both in front of goal and protecting their own net, scoring less goals, with 40, and conceding more, with 28. An improvement under Andre Villas-Boas? Not according to those facts.
So what about Liverpool? In 2011/12, after 23 games, the Reds were fifth with 38 points, having won 10 games, drawn eight and lost five. Of those 10 wins, an impressive six came away from home, with only four at Anfield.
After 23 games this campaign, Liverpool are seventh, having accumulated four points less than the same stage last year, one less win with nine, one draw less with seven, and, crucially, two more losses, with seven. Though they have improved on their home record with six home wins compared to four, their away record is clearly inferior, with only three wins away from home compared to six. Once again, the supposed improvement upon last season is hard to see - in fact, they have regressed as far as the table is concerned. Even if we consider Liverpool's superior home record compared to last year's, it means little considering they have won less games in total. A home win doesn't mean more points than an away win, after all.
The big games
Some Spurs fans will be quick to point out that their results against Manchester United this season (winning one and drawing the other) as proof that Tottenham have improved, considering their lack of previous success against the Red Devils, and Villas-Boas deserves credit for those games. Yet so far this season, Tottenham have lost to both of their closest top four rivals - 4-2 to Chelsea at home and 5-2 to Arsenal away - whereas last year Spurs had managed to beat Arsenal 2-1 and draw 1-1 with Chelsea at White Hart Lane (they went on to lose 5-2 at Arsenal and draw 0-0 at Stamford Bridge).
For Liverpool, the difference is even more striking. This time last season, the Reds took maximum points from Arsenal away, winning 2-0, and Chelsea away, winning 2-1. They also managed to draw 1-1 with Manchester United and Manchester City at Anfield. All in, that's eight vital points from the strongest teams in the league, including an away win over the eventual winners of the Champions League.
This season is much less impressive. The Reds managed to take a point from Manchester City at home (2-2) and Chelsea away (1-1), but were beaten 2-1 by Manchester United at Anfield and 2-0 by Arsenal at home. That's only two points in comparison to eight. In fact, Liverpool have yet to beat a team from above them in the league all season under Brendan Rodgers. Again, it's hard to spin that as improvement.
So there you have it. In terms of their points tally, win record and performances against key rivals (at least in the Merseysiders' case), both Liverpool and Tottenham are actually worse off than they were at this time last season. There is still time for this to change, but considering Harry Redknapp guided Tottenham to fourth and Kenny Dalglish took Liverpool to two cup finals, Villas-Boas and Rodgers will have to do better in the second half of the season to justifiably claim they've improved matters. Progress? The facts, Harry Redknapp and Kenny Dalglish might like to point out, suggest otherwise.
Liverpool and Spurs fans, can you justifiably say your teams have improved so far this campaign? Is there something we're missing? Let us know below...