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Where do Liverpool rank among the greatest Premier League teams in history?

Liverpool are on course for a maiden Premier League title
Liverpool are on course for a maiden Premier League title
Elvis Ume O
ANALYST
Modified 31 Jan 2020, 10:45 IST
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Liverpool's 2-0 victory over West Ham in a rescheduled fixture saw them extend their lead at the top of the Premier League to 19 points and with just 14 matches left to go this season, it is surely now a matter of 'how soon' and not if the Reds would win a maiden Premier League title.

This victory was in many ways a redemption for Liverpool, as a 1-1 draw at this stadium last February saw their lead over Manchester City extinguished and effectively ended their title charge.

It also means that they have triumphed over all 19 teams in the Premier League this season, marking the first time this feat has been achieved in the illustrious history of the Merseyside outfit; not even the great sides of the past like those of Kenny Dalglish, Bob Paisley, or Bill Shankly ever managed to do this.

Liverpool have been forged into a winning machine and their tally of 70 points from 24 matches is unrivalled in the history of the top five European leagues.

Even when not playing at their best, they always find a way to pick up all three points, with recent matches against Wolves and Tottenham serving as proof of their 'giant mentality', while their never-say-die attitude means that they are always confident of victory even on the rare occasions that the odds are stacked against them.

Although they are not officially league champions yet, conversations have expectedly turned to how this Liverpool team ranks among the greats of the past, with some pundits laying their marker by proclaiming them among the best the league has ever witnessed.

Ranking football teams and players from different eras is rarely a straightforward matter, with several factors such as changes in rules, advancements in technology, increased player power, and financial incentives among others playing significant roles in altering the course of the game.

Wenger
Wenger's Arsenal finished the 2004 Premier League season unbeaten

When it comes to great Premier League teams, the Arsenal 'Invincibles' of 2003-04 are regarded as the gold standard and rightly so, as Wenger's men achieved what no other side had done in over a century, i.e finishing the entire league campaign unbeaten.

That season saw Arsenal garner 90 points, with 26 victories and 12 draws and even though their run was eventually halted by Manchester United the next year, their mark of 49 is one that cemented their place in history as the club with the longest unbeaten streak in Premier League history.

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The last time Liverpool tasted defeat was on January 3, 2019, meaning that they are on an equally impressive run of 40 matches unbeaten and just need to avoid defeat in their next nine games to equal that feat.

In terms of victories, Arsenal's total of 26 in their invincible campaign was impressive for its time but as a sign of how totally dominant Liverpool have been this term, they are just four wins away from surpassing that and with 14 matches to go, they are sure to pass the Gunners' total of 90 points.

Another club that comes to the fore in discussions for Premier League greatest teams is Manchester United's treble-winning side of 1998-99 and while not taking anything away from their unprecedented feat, the Red Devils were not that dominant domestically. They finished with a total of 79 points, just one clear of second-placed Arsenal. This season, that total might not even get them into the top three.

Just a year later, the Red Devils achieved what was then the highest point total (in a 38-game season), finishing the campaign with 91 points, 18 points ahead of second-placed Arsenal, losing just three matches and scoring 97 goals but each of these tallies look likely to be surpassed by Liverpool this term.

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Jose Mourinho
Jose Mourinho's arrival in 2004 altered the Premier League

José Mourinho's arrival in England in 2004 totally revamped the Premier League and his consecutive title-winning sides in 2005 and 2006 raised the bar in terms of competitiveness.

Their first league title in half a century saw Chelsea set numerous records, including for most points (95), fewest goals conceded (15), most games won (29) among others and while some of those records remain, others have since been surpassed.

The Blues sole defeat of the season came at Manchester City in October and proof of how dominant they were came in the fact that they finished 18 points ahead of Arsenal (who were defending champions from their invincible campaign). A year later, they were not so majestic but still managed to accrue an impressive total of 91 points at the end of the campaign.

Despite having the attacking prowess of Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, and Dimitar Berbatov in their three-peat at the end of the first decade of the noughties, Manchester United reached the 90-point mark just once, while their highest goals scored in this period was the 80 managed in 2007-08.

Antonio Conte redefined the Premier League landscape with his unique three-at-the-back system and his title winning wards in 2017 did not receive as much attention or claim to immortality as they should have because of the performance of the team that dethroned them.

When it comes to utter dominance, Manchester City's title-wining team of 2017-18 is widely regarded as the most dominant individual force in Premier League history, with them rewriting the record books almost every other week.

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They became the first side to reach the magical 100-point mark, while their total of 106 goals is unmatched and seems set to remain that way for a while. Other milestones achieved included winning the most matches in a season, while their 19-point advantage over second-placed Manchester United is the largest margin in history.

Manchester City won the title with 100 points in 2018
Manchester City won the title with 100 points in 2018

A year later, they were almost equally dominant in retaining their league title, although rather than obliterate everyone away, they had a formidable foe in Liverpool who matched them stride for stride and took the title race to the final day of the campaign.

This term, they have dropped significantly and have surrendered their title without putting up much of a fight but they are very much victims of their own high standards and Manchester City's total of 51 points would have been enough to keep them at the summit of both LaLiga and Bundesliga.

If Liverpool are to maintain their current point rate, they would end the season on an unbelievable 110 points and while there are still more than enough threats to their quest for an unbeaten campaign, the Reds have shown that they are capable of beating anyone, anywhere on their day.

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They might not be as gung-ho as they used to be but their previous excitement and unpredictability has been replaced by a steely resolution and pragmatism that means that Jürgen Klopp's side have been forged into a difficult opponent.

In terms of defensive solidity, Chelsea with John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho lead the way, while the Premier League has seen more fluid and dynamic midfields than the current one on show at Anfield.

A case can be made for Mo Salah, Sadio Mané, and Roberto Firmino to be considered the most efficient frontline in league history, but Manchester United, Manchester City, and Arsenal have all had legendary strikers lead their line.

However, the one advantage this Liverpool side has over the rest of the competition is their solidity in almost all departments.

Sir Alex Ferguson guided Manchester United to a three-peat on two different occasions
Sir Alex Ferguson guided Manchester United to a three-peat on two different occasions

In the purest definition of the word 'team', Liverpool are as close to one as you would find. Their defence is marshalled by the ever-impressive Virgil van Dijk and Alisson Becker, while Trent-Alexander Arnold and Andrew Robertson continue to redefine the full-back role. Upfront, the finishing accuracy of Mo Salah, Sadio Mané, and Roberto Firmino is complemented by the grit and industriousness of Jordan Henderson and co. in the middle.

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This is in no way to suggest that they are the best team in Premier League history, as that title might well be impossible to determine due to several factors.

For example, a lot has been made about the Premier League being the most competitive league in the world but it is pertinent to note that the evolution of the teams at the top has had a marked alteration on the Premier League landscape.

The difference in class between the elite clubs and those beneath them is so glaring that lower teams are content to accept their inferiority and sit back, letting their more illustrious opponents have all of the possession.

For context, between 2003 and 2006, only three matches saw one team have more than 70% possession, with the Premier League being at the height of its counter-attacking powers but an influx of continental managers in the last decade has changed the narrative.

In January 2020 alone, Manchester City already had had more than 70% possession on two occasions, with their other two matches against Everton and Sheffield United returned 66% and 68% possession respectively. Liverpool's 2-0 victory over Sheffield United saw them have 75% possession and between the top two, they have taken just eight matches to equal the mark reached in over 1,000 Premier League matches 14 years ago.

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If the Reds remain as emphatic as they have been for the first 24 games of this campaign, they would have a huge shout in being considered the single greatest team in Premier League history and while they would need a number of successful title defences to be classified as a reigning empire, in terms of single season performance, they would rank right up there with the best of them.


Also read: A look at the greatest Premier League teams of all time

Published 31 Jan 2020, 10:45 IST
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