As the first bookie to pay out on Liverpool for the title we look at what it takes to be a premature champion.
Arsenal were beaten 2-0 by Manchester United on 24th October 2004 at Old Trafford in one of the fieriest and most dramatic encounters ever seen on Premier League football pitch. The Invincibles, at that moment, wrote themselves into the history books permanently. The statisticians could stop their work. When the final whistle blew, it was determined. Arsenal’s run consisted of 49 games unbeaten in the Premier League.
Many have tried since. Chelsea only a season later managed to lose just one game. Liverpool only lost once last season and they still came 2nd. It is a hard task. One red card, a silly penalty, an injury crisis, an inspired, desperate, thunderous performance from an opponent is all that is required to derail an unbeaten season.
Yet, here we are. Liverpool have managed 23 games this season and 40 in total spanning the last two. If they escape what would surely be one of the biggest games in English football history at the Etihad without a loss on 4th April, they will have equalled Arsenal’s record of 49. There would be 6 games after that to not just match the Invincibles but surely surpass them. A lot can happen between now and 4th April, let alone the end of the season but this is the closest any team has been since 2004.
The Champions League and FA Cup will hit them soon and then the prioritising will start. One likely scenario presents itself: a crucial Champions League match takes place days after a league game. The league, of course, has been sewn up but the burden and weight of expectation around an unbeaten season engulfs them. Do they rest players for the league and focus on the Champions League? Or do they sacrifice Europe for that special golden Premier League trophy? Or, neither? The squad is strong, depth and quality all over.
Maybe these sacrifices will just present opportunities for others to impress. Out steps the Ox and in comes Lallana, Keita for Fabinho, Minamino for Salah even? There are too many ifs and buts to call the future, but we are going to make one bold statement: if Liverpool win their next game away at West Ham, we are going to be the first bookmaker to pay out on all bets for the Reds to win the Premier League trophy.
As for the unbeaten run, who knows what could happen? We make it a good 7/2 chance. Think that might be worth a nibble for a passionate Liverpool fan! Or a Man United fan looking to make the best out of a bad situation?