On May 12 last year, Manchester City trounced Brighton & Hove Albion 4-1 on the road, securing the Premier League title. In an astonishing turn of events, Liverpool finished second despite having 97 points, the third-highest tally in the history of the Premier League and a single point behind the champions. Rather frustrated to have finished second in spite of such a performance, Jürgen Klopp and his men enacted their revenge on Tottenham in the Champions League final about a month later, strolling to a 2-0 victory. This season, they have seemingly been buoyed by this win, accumulating wins with ruthless efficiency. With nothing but wins and a single draw against Manchester United, Liverpool’s 22-point lead on the second-place Man City have them strong favourites to win the Premier League title for the first time. Additionally, with a comparatively low 28 points in their next 13 games, Liverpool would beat the all-time record in points of 100 set by Manchester City in 2017-2018.
Some particularly loyal Arsenal fans such as myself, however, have found themselves considering that Liverpool may repeat what was once deemed an impossible feat and become the second invincible team in Premier League history. Arsenal famously ended their 2003-2004 run with a total of 90 points and an undefeated record to back it. To celebrate the achievement, they were awarded a golden Premier League trophy, the only one ever to be created. It is every Arsenal fan’s greatest fear that this exploit, which has greatly helped them conserve their sanity through their club’s decline over the last decade, will be duplicated. Unfortunately for already diminished Arsenal fans, the Liverpudlians are looking increasingly likely to do so.
Liverpool’s defensive line shows incredible versatility, scoring and assisting as easily as they stop all manners of goalscoring opportunities while their forwards’ chemistry and goalscoring potential is virtually unmatched in the world of football. Yet, perhaps the most understated aspect of Klopp’s well-oiled machine is their midfield, led by a positively brilliant Jordan Henderson who is currently favoured to win player of the year.
Liverpool’s success this season is not solely due to their brilliance; indeed, the 25-point lead they hold at the time this article is being written is also due to a peculiarly weak opposition. Manchester United and Arsenal, Liverpool’s historical rivals, respectively stand at seventh and tenth. The former have been struggling with inconsistency as well as injuries. United’s two best players have also been dealing with their own issues. David De Gea, once a titan between the posts, is a shadow of his former self, and the excellent Paul Pogba has been suffering recurrent injuries. Combined with a tendency to play to their opponent’s level, this has led to United dropping easy points and struggling to compete for European spots.
Arsenal are in a somewhat more dire situation, having offloaded their previous coach, Unai Emery, in the middle of the season. Mikel Arteta, his relatively inexperienced replacement, has been struggling to find success, perhaps unhelped by an unreliable backline. Unfortunately, even the most skilled of coaching cannot increase a defender’s ability past a certain threshold, and Arsenal will have to rely on transfers if they wish to seriously compete for European spots.
Tottenham Hotspur sacked Mauricio Pochettino in the middle of the season, to be replaced by the man everyone loves to hate, Jose Mourinho. His trademark defensive style has been difficult to implement with an aging back line, and both of their best players, Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min are injured and are likely to be so for at least a month. As a result, they are standing squarely at fifth.
Chelsea have been struggling with the loss of the brilliant Eden Hazard and are still waiting for Frank Lampard to find his stride as a coach, leaving them stuck at fourth. Leicester City at third have been having a remarkable season by their standards, functioning excellently as a unit while perpetuating the knack for detecting talent that won them the title in 2015-2016. However, Manchester City, just one point ahead, has experienced a season nothing like the previous one. While Kevin de Bruyne, the best player in the Premier League, has been playing to his usual stratospheric level, Aymeric Laporte’s knee injury at the start of the season has forced the brilliant Pep Guardiola to play Nicolas Otamendi, a notoriously unreliable centre-half who unbalances City’s entire back line. An overall drop in their level of play can perhaps also be attributed to mental fatigue on the players’ behalf, after undergoing Pep’s strenuous regime for several years. Their recent two-year ban from the Champion’s League due to financial foul play is unlikely to help them, as they will likely soon begin to hemorrhage talent. Professional footballers playing for superteams such as Manchester City view the Champion’s League as the holy grail of club football. Frequently, when a team loses the ability to compete in the Champion’s League, be it due to a ban or a drop in level, players look to move to other teams that can offer them that opportunity. If Manchester City’s appeal against the ban is unsuccessful, they may find themselves facing a similar situation.
Instead of attempting to beat the record for overall points, Jurgen Klopp could make the decision to focus on the Champion’s League were Liverpool to secure the title before the end of the season and play youngsters for the rest of the season. However, Klopp could be unable to make that choice if Liverpool are unable to overturn the single goal deficit they acquired in the first game of their Champion’s League tie against an Atletico team with extraordinary defensive skill. In the eventuality they are unable to overcome this deficit, Liverpool is likely to pour their soul into the Premier League to forget their defeat, becoming the second Invincibles in league history. Either way, the remainder of the Premier League is sure to yield an outcome like nothing we’ve ever seen before.