When Unai Emery was relived of his duties and Mikel Arteta was given the monumental task of turning around his former club’s fortunes, many fans voiced their discontent.
This Liverpool side is rightly held up as a super team. Pace, skill, grit, determination – they really do have it all. All except an unbeaten season.
This doesn’t for a second mean that the Arsenal Invincibles were a better team, but it further puts their achievement in context.
This Liverpool team haven’t yet won the league – although it appears, coronavirus aside, inevitable – but while still pressing for the title, they lost. They didn’t get distracted when the season was nearly done.
I thought maybe, just maybe, they might lose to Manchester City in April after the league was wrapped up and they had turned their attention to the Champions League.
But in the end it was Watford at home. Ouch.
People state, probaly fairly, that the 2003-04 Arsenal team had less competition. Manchester United were fierce adversaries and Chelsea were on the improve, but Liverpool were 30 points back and Tottenham finished with exactly half the points as the Gunners.
People say this year the competition is that much stronger, but I’m not sure that argument holds up. Leicester can’t win to save themselves at present, Manchester United and Chelsea are ‘rebuilding’ (to put it nicely – United may be on the longest rebuild in history), Tottenham have fallen away, and the chasing pack is led by Sheffield United and Wolves.
Even Manchester City have looked dodgy at times, missing key players.
(Note I didn’t even mention Arsenal becasue I said ‘the competition’.)
Liverpool are great, but are the chasing pack really that strong? Debatable.
In the end it doesn’t matter because it was Watford, at the time in the relegation zone, who took away their chance of an unbeaten season.
Liverpool have waited so long for this title that I doubt it will really matter to them at the end of the season if, as all logic would suggest, they win the league. And the 2006 Champions League final started the long spiral to where Arsenal are now.
At the end of proceedings, we will likely have Liverpool as Premier League champions, multiple Champions League winners (and maybe again in 2020), and Arsenal, on the slide, not qualified for Europe, with prospects looking a bit thin.
The overall records are not comparable.
But if this great Liverpool team – maybe the best club team of all time – and last season’s record-breaking Manchester City team (another serious contender for best of all time) can’t go through unbeaten, surely that highlights just how special the Invincibles’ achievement was.
Sure, they didn’t have the super-wealthy teams to beat, but they did have the Birmingham Citys, the Southamptons and the Leicesters away on cold nights, and they manged to do something that hadn’t been done for 115 years – since Preston in the very first year of English top-flight football – and has never been done before or since in the Premier League.
The unbeaten season was a special achievement, and with the current situation looking so grim for Arsenal, surely you can give us at least that.