It had to end at some point, although few would have predicted that Liverpool’s runaway train, the one that had smashed through 26 teams in 27 Premier League games this season would be stopped at Vicarage Road. And even fewer would have predicted that it would be stopped so abruptly, not just slowing to a halt, but crashing into the buffers as Watford claimed an astonishing 3-0 victory.
Of course, in the grand scheme of things this result does little to diminish what Liverpool have achieved, and will go on to achieve, this season. Jurgen Klopp and his players will still get their hands on the Premier League trophy. That aching void will be filled for a club that has gone three decades without being English champions.
This hasn’t stopped the eulogies from flowing. Liverpool will not match Arsenal’s ‘Invincibles’ of 2003/04 by going an entire Premier League season without losing a single match, with the Reds’ unbeaten streak ending at 44 games. But Liverpool never needed to go an entire season unbeaten to go down as the greatest Premier League team of all-time. They never needed to become the ‘Invincibles 2.0.’
What Klopp’s side are doing is still on course to exceed what Arsene Wenger’s great Arsenal team did. Liverpool have already matched the points tally achieved the last time they won the English title back in 1990 and they still have 10 fixtures left to play. Win all 10 of those games, which is certainly not out of the question given their form up until Saturday, and the Anfield outfit won’t just set a new Premier League points record, they’ll obliterate the previous benchmark of 100 points by going nine better.
This Liverpool team will be remembered in the same way the likes of Manchester United’s 1999 Treble-winning side, Arsenal’s ‘Invincibles’ and Jose Mourinho’s first Chelsea outfit are. Most fans, even those of a neutral persuasion, are able to ring through the majority of Man Utd’s 1999 team. The same goes for Arsenal’s 2003/04 and Chelsea’s 2005/06 sides.
In particular, the Man Utd midfield of 1999 – Ryan Giggs, Roy Keane, Paul Scholes, David Beckham – was iconic and Liverpool’s current front three – Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah – could match that in the pantheon of the most memorable teams in English football history. That’s the level they are at.
All this might seem somewhat hyperbolic. There is still scope for Liverpool’s season to finish on an anticlimactic note. They could crash out of the Champions League to Atletico Madrid having lost the first leg in the Spanish capital (Atleti are 37/5 to win the second leg at Anfield). They could lose to Chelsea in the FA Cup on Tuesday night (the Blues are 31/20 to win). They could lose their focus with the Premier League title already in the bag, suffering a few more nights like the one experienced at Vicarage Road.
But like Usain Bolt racing so far ahead in a 100m dash only to canter over the finishing line, flashing a grin in the direction of the cameras in the process, Liverpool have set such an astonishing pace that it almost doesn’t matter how their season ends. They have already shown that they can run faster for longer than any Premier League team seen before.
Arsenal’s ‘Invincibles’’ achievement of 49 games unbeaten was remarkable and may never be matched again. That this Liverpool side only made it to the 44-game mark underlines the scale of what Wenger and his players did 16 years ago. But going a full season without losing certainly isn’t the only mark of a great Premier League team and Klopp’s side are by almost every measure surpassing everything that has gone before.