Liverpool’s unbeaten year: Could they match Arsenal’s Invincibles?
Liverpool beat Sheffield United 2-0 on Thursday to open up a 13-point gap at the top of the Premier League table
By Nick Wright
Last Updated: 03/01/20 3:24pm
Liverpool's 2-1 loss to Manchester City on January 3 last year proved costly to their title ambitions, with Pep Guardiola's side going on to claim the Premier League crown by a single point.
But it also turned out to be the start of something special. Since that night at the Etihad Stadium, Liverpool have gone 37 Premier League games without defeat. The 2-0 win over Sheffield United at Anfield on Thursday made it a full calendar year unbeaten for Jurgen Klopp's side.
The run has put them 13 points clear at the top of the Premier League at the start of 2020, with defending champions City languishing well off the pace in third place. Liverpool's first title win in 30 years is beginning to look like an inevitability. Is there any stopping them?
Yet another win for relentless Reds
Sheffield United certainly couldn't. Chris Wilder's side have been awkward opponents for the big six this season, taking points off Arsenal, Tottenham and Manchester United, while Liverpool needed a 70th-minute strike from Georginio Wijnaldum to beat them at Bramall Lane in September.
This time, however, their resistance only lasted four minutes, when Andrew Robertson capitalised on a slip from George Baldock to latch onto Virgil van Dijk's long pass and cross for Mohamed Salah to put the Reds in front.
Liverpool rarely looked like giving up the lead after that, controlling the game convincingly and registering 75 per cent of the possession - their second-highest total of the season so far.
Sadio Mane scored the second goal midway through the second half, finishing emphatically at the second time of asking following a smart piece of combination play with Salah, but Liverpool could easily have had more goals. By the end, they had attempted 19 shots to United's three.
"We played really well," said Klopp afterwards. "Our passing was very good, we broke lines, our positioning was exceptional, and the discipline offensively was exceptional. We didn't let them have the moments they wanted, we controlled the game and [the win] was very well deserved."
How Liverpool's unbeaten run compares
The numbers behind Liverpool's unbeaten run are extraordinary.
Klopp's men have won 32 of the 37 games, taking 101 points from a possible 111. It's seven more than Manchester City have managed in the same time-frame despite playing a game more.
Liverpool have averaged 2.7 points per game during the run and scored 89 goals. Their shut-out against the Blades was their 16th clean sheet of the calendar year.
It's the front three who tend to dominate the headlines in this side, but the defensive showing against Sheffield United was the latest reminder of the strength at the back that has underpinned their success.
Liverpool still have 12 games to navigate before equalling Arsenal's record-breaking 49-game unbeaten run between 2003 and 2004, but they are already closing in on Chelsea's run of 40 games undefeated under Jose Mourinho between 2004 and 2005.
The victory over Sheffield United extended Liverpool's current winning streak to 11 games. Before the 1-1 draw with Manchester United in October, they won 17 games in a row - the second-longest winning run in Premier League history after Manchester City's 18-game run in 2017.
There have been plenty of highlights along the way. Liverpool made a huge statement with their 3-1 win over Manchester City earlier this season, and there have also been notable comebacks, including the 2-1 win over Tottenham in March - secured by a late own goal - and the dramatic 2-1 victory over Aston Villa a week before the win over City in November.
Liverpool supporters will hope the best is yet to come.
Could Liverpool match the Invincibles?
Klopp has repeatedly ruled out the possibility of replicating Arsenal's Invincibles but the comparisons are inevitable when Liverpool continue to produce performances and results of such a relentlessly high level.
The Reds are in fact averaging more points per game than the Invincibles. They are scoring more goals and conceding fewer.
Liverpool's hopes of replicating Arsenal's 49-game unbeaten run rest on the next 12 games, however, and even in this kind of form it will not be straight-forward. They are away to Jose Mourinho's Tottenham in their next game, live on Sky Sports on January 11, and after that they host Manchester United before awkward trips to Wolves and West Ham.
Liverpool's next 12 Premier League games
- Jan 11: Tottenham (a)
- Jan 19: Man Utd (h)
- Jan 23: Wolves (a)
- Jan 29: West Ham (a)
- Feb 1: Southampton (h)
- Feb 15: Norwich (a)
- Feb 24: West Ham (h)
- Feb 29: Watford (a)
- Mar 7: Bournemouth (h)
- Mar 14: Everton (a)
- Mar 21: C Palace (h)
- Apr 4: Man City (a)
There is the small matter of a Merseyside derby against a resurgent Everton in March, and even if they make it through the next 11 games without losing, they will need to avoid defeat against - you guessed it - Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium in April in order to make it to 49.
The Premier League title may already be theirs if the run continues for that long, but only then will they consider the possibility of going the entire season without defeat. Liverpool face Aston Villa, Brighton, Burnley, Arsenal, Chelsea and Newcastle in their final six games of the campaign.
What could stop them?
Of course, plenty could go wrong between now and then.
Liverpool are coping without Fabinho, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Dejan Lovren and Joel Matip due to injuries at the moment. They lost Naby Keita in the warm-up at Anfield on Thursday too. But would they be able to manage if Van Dijk was ruled out?
Trent Alexander-Arnold and Robertson are similarly important, with none of Liverpool's back-up full-backs able to replicate their creativity. The newly-recruited Takumi Minamino will provide greater depth in attack, but an injury to any one of their front three could be just as problematic.
There is no let-up to Liverpool's schedule either, with Champions League and FA Cup commitments still to come, meaning fatigue is likely to become more of an issue as the season progresses.
A lot may also depend on how Klopp's men cope with the mounting pressure. If games are drawn and points are dropped, how will they respond? All the recent evidence suggests there is no mental frailty in this Liverpool side, but it is another factor to consider as they seek to continue their unbeaten run and send more records tumbling.