3 reasons why Liverpool couldn't beat the record of Arsenal's Invincibles
- What went wrong for Liverpool in their bid to break Arsenal's unbeaten record?
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It's been 16 years now since Arsene Wenger's 'Invincibles' won the English Premier League without suffering a single loss in the entire campaign, but their record is yet to be broken.
A few sides in all these years seemed likely to match their feat, with Jose Mourinho's Chelsea in the early 2000s and Pep Guardiola's Manchester City in the past few years coming fairly close, they all failed in the end.
This year another 'once in a lifetime' team, Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool, tried their hands at this ridiculously great achievement, and for much of the season, they looked like they would stick to it till the very end. However, it took a passion-fueled relegation battling Watford to defeat them in style at Vicarage Road.
Though the Scousers hail their team for having a brilliant season, other teams' fans and neutrals have termed them infamously as the 'Unbearables', reasoning out that Liverpool has been favoured a lot thanks to the use of Video Assistant Referee (VAR) for the first time this year.
Arsenal's record stays put and the European Champions have been finally beaten by Watford and most recently by Chelsea last night in the FA Cup. This surely has exposed a lot of flaws in their system.
In this feature, we take a look at the three reasons why The Reds didn't go unbeaten this season in the Premier League.
#3 Lack of midfield leadership in Jordan Henderson's absence
From being called incapable of being Liverpool's captain to winning the Champions League with The Reds and leading them towards their first-ever Premier League title, Jordan Henderson's journey has been exceptional.
On paper last season, any rational football enthusiast would name Henderson the weakest link in the mighty Liverpool side, but he might just have been the strongest player in that lineup coupled with some of the other stars.
The captain's importance has been highlighted recently since his absence after picking up a knock against Atletico Madrid because since then the Liverpool side has been far from bossing the midfield in every game they have played.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Adam Lallana have filled his spot on a rotational basis but his responsibility has fallen on the shoulders of Brazilian Fabinho, being the most experienced in the centre of the park.
All three midfielders have been shambolic, leading to Liverpool giving up on the Invincibles record pursuit against Watford and exiting from the FA Cup against Chelsea. For the side to go unbeaten for the whole season like Arsenal, they needed Henderson to start every important match if possible.
#2 Sub-optimal central defence apart from Virgil van Dijk
Liverpool's extraordinary run of success has had Virgil van Dijk at its very helm since the Dutchman's arrival from Southampton.
Van Dijk changed the entire definition of defending in the red half of Merseyside upon his arrival and had an immediate impact not only with his defending but also with him being an aerial attacking threat to the opposition in set-pieces.
However, there is no doubt that Van Dijk's greatness has hugely hidden the below-par quality of the other top three central defenders in the Liverpool camp.
For the second half of the season, with Van Dijk showing some signs of weakness once in a while, Joel Matip, Joe Gomez, and Dejan Lovren have failed to step up to cover up for his rare errors.
To go unbeaten like Arsenal's Invincibles, it's not enough to have just one world-class central defender, they needed a world-class defence altogether. However, aside from Van Dijk alongside the full-backs, Trent Alexander-Arnold & Andrew Robertson being phenomenal, Liverpool's lack of a world-class centre-back partner for Van Dijk may have cost them the record.
#1 Liverpool's style of playing an open game and not parking the bus when required
In 2004, when Arsenal realised that the other Premier League teams had cracked their playing system and patterns which had kept them unbeaten, the Gunners parked the bus for a few games at the end of the season to achieve this feat which may never be repeated.
Liverpool's philosophy does not allow them to sit back and defend, even when the team is leading by 3 or 4 goals, and this may have just cost them an unbeaten season this year.
The Reds play an open game and relentlessly try to attack the opposition, and this leads to the team playing a few yards higher on the pitch than what other teams generally do, especially the full-backs on the wings.
This makes it easy for a team to counter against them, and if lucky, to score a few, which is exactly what Watford did last week.
While some might call it a boring approach to sit back and defend, practically it would have been a good decision if going unbeaten was a priority for Jurgen Klopp and his boys.
The Reds from Liverpool play Bournemouth on Saturday at Anfield before they welcome Atletico Madrid in the Champions League next week.Published 04 Mar 2020, 20:25 IST