The pre-season of 16 years ago, 2003, no one thought what was about to happen could happen – but it did. Arsene Wenger guided his side to an entirely unbeaten season: 26 wins, 12 draws and zero defeats. No losses in a Premier League season. None. It’s a feat which is yet to be matched on England’s biggest stage. Even after the distraction of winning the title four games before the season’s end at White Hart Lane, the former home of fierce rivals Tottenham Hotspur, Arsene’s men didn’t quiver and saw out the remaining games unbeaten. Arsenal were that good. During the following season, they continued their run to a record 49 games without defeat before Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United (who else?!) put a stop to it just shy of the half a century landmark.
For a long period of time, not one side has even looked to buck the trend, until recently. Jurgen Klopp’s Champions League winning side narrowly missed out on the title by one point but did so by losing only one game during the entire 2018/19 campaign. The sole defeat was the difference between winning the title and finishing second. That sole defeat stopped them from being the next ‘Invincibles’. That sole defeat came to eventual winners Manchester City. Pep Guardiola’s team came close themselves in the 2017/18 season, winning the title by a record-breaking 100 points having recorded just two losses all season. It appears the only thing stopping either Liverpool or Manchester City becoming a modern-era ‘Invincibles’ is each other.
It would be fair to say that the two are a cut-above the rest in the Premier League and the duel between them could replicate that of Arsene’s Arsenal and Fergie’s United of yesteryear. They are ultimately primed to strike for the foreseeable future so surely an unbeaten season is around the corner for one of them. The rest of the league has a considerable task on their hands to catch up to the two outliers – third-placed Tottenham finished 25 points behind Liverpool in second whilst United were 32 points behind their local rivals City. A gap like that doesn’t change overnight, or in footballing terms, during one summer. It will take a good three to four years for that to change barring any disaster to the squads at the hands of Guardiola and Klopp. With that said, if Arsenal’s ‘Invincibles’ side are to be replicated in the modern game, it will be either Manchester City or Liverpool in the next few seasons.
Klopp added much-needed strength to a defence in dire need of leadership and quality – through Virgil van Dijk and Brazilian goalkeeper Alisson Becker they managed to keep the most clean sheets (21) and concede the least amount of goals (22) in the Premier League last season. Mirroring the influence Jens Lehmann and Sol Campbell had in that Arsenal side. Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold are arguably the two best full-backs in the league currently – Arsenal had both Ashley Cole and Lauren who both must be up there in Premier League history. In attack, they had two of the three Golden Boot winners with Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah both notching 22 goals for the season, but every forward played their part. These two could be considered the ‘Thierry Henry’ and ‘Dennis Bergkamp’ of the team – remember, Freddie Ljungberg, Robert Pires, Edu, Sylvain Wiltord and Jose Antonio Reyes all played their part in the same way that Roberto Firmino, Xherdan Shaqiri and Divock Origi do in this team.
I won’t bore you by making further comparisons to City’s side but they make the most compelling case having won back-to-back titles and four of the last eight. Sergio Aguero was only one goal off being in a four-way tie for the Golden Boot and likewise, Ederson was merely one clean sheet off tying Alisson. These sorts of stats only further emphasise the gap between Liverpool and City to the rest of the Premier League – making it seem likely that their domination could result in an unbeaten season for either club or even the even more unthinkable, both teams could quite easily go unbeaten, drawing with each other and beating the rest! Who knows.