In Jurgen Klopp’s Anfield office there may well be a calendar hung on the all with 4 April 2020 circled. That’s the date Liverpool will travel to the Etihad Stadium to take on Manchester City and it’s the date that the Reds could, if their current form holds, equal Arsenal’s fabled record of 49 Premier League games unbeaten.
The narrative would be overwhelming. It’s entirely possible that Liverpool will have already clinched the title by next April, but equalling the record set by the ‘Invincibles’ 15 years ago at the home of the very team they have spent the past two seasons trying to topple would be hugely symbolic. If Man City’s record points haul over the 2017/18 season was the mark of a legendary side, this record would distinguish Klopp’s Liverpool in much the same way.
“I would have loved that this number is in one season, that would be great,” Klopp said when asked to reflect on going 32 league games unbeaten for the first time in Liverpool’s 127-year history. “Last year we were nearly 38 games unbeaten, nearly but was not enough. A nice number, but I’m not really interested. Since one and a half two years it feels like we have to win each and every game, thank God the boys did it from time to time, so all the wins are really necessary.”
There’s no reason to believe Liverpool can’t go the full 2019/20 season unbeaten. They haven’t lost a Premier League game since the defeat to Man City on 3 January, meaning they are just three games (against Leicester City, Wolves and Sheffield United) away from going a full calendar year in the league undefeated.
Liverpool might have impressed in more games last season, winning more matches by a bigger margin, but Klopp has cultivated a group of hardened winners. This is a team that has forgotten how to lose. At times, they have won games through muscle memory, but with every late comeback and stoppage time winner they add another veneer of invincibility to their character. It could carry them to 49 unbeaten matches.
Not that this Liverpool team has to equal or better Arsenal’s record to earn their place in the pantheon of the Premier League’s great sides. They have already done that. This is a team that has won 16 of their opening 17 league fixtures, dropping just two points from a possible 51. Nobody in Premier League history has ever set a pace like that before. It’s unprecedented.
When Arsenal fans think back to the club’s ‘Invincibles’ era they don’t remember the scrappy away draws to Charlton Athletic and Portsmouth that ultimately carried them to the 49-game mark. They remember the storming wins over Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham, the moments that got their hands on the Premier League trophy.
The ‘Invincibles’ tag is a mark of that Arsenal’s team quality, of their dominance of English football at that time, rather than a defining achievement in itself, even if history has now somewhat obtusely rendered it as such. It would be the same for this Liverpool side if they are to be just as invincible, even more so if they keep their current pace up. There have been no draws away to Charlton or Portsmouth.
Klopp notes how Liverpool have been pushed on by the necessity to win every single week over the past two seasons such has been the competition from Man City. Now that competition isn’t so stiff, with Pep Guardiola’s men currently 14 points off the pace, might some of the healthy tension that has sustained Liverpool disappear from their performances between now and the end of May? The Reds’ invincibility might be the only thing capable of stopping them from becoming ‘Invincibles.’