The benchmark by which all achievements are set has to be the 2003/04 Arsenal side who, managed by Arsene Wenger, went a whole Premier League season without losing a game. In 2017/18, the benchmark is about to be set by Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City as they look to shatter the legacy of The Invincibles.
Their unbeaten season was lauded at the time as a unique achievement, a one-off that would never be bettered or matched. In the fourteen years since, no side has come close. That is all about to change.
With half of the domestic season gone, Manchester City look to be on course to not only match the achievement, but surpass it with relative ease. Already the statistics show them to be performing better than the legendary Gunners side.
Arsenal’s Invincibles presented with the trophy – by Mr Alexander Ottesen
At the turn of 2003, Arsenal had lost two matches, against Inter Milan in the Champions League and against Dynamo Kiev in the same competition. This season, City have lost just once, in the Champions League. Whilst Arsenal were beaten in the first group game and the third, City lost the last game with a weakened side out, having already qualified by winning their first five matches.
In the one match they did lose, Phil Foden started and became the youngest Englishman to start a Champions League game, whilst Tosin Adarabioyo made only his second start for the team, too. When the Gunners fell to Kiev, they fielded exactly the same starting eleven that beat Chelsea three days earlier.
In 2003, Arsenal had also drawn a number of games, seven in the Premier League, one in the Carling Cup and another in the Champions League. This all-conquering Manchester City have drawn just four, two of which were with weakened sides in the Carabao Cup. They’ve drawn just twice in the league, surprisingly against Ronald Koeman’s Everton and more recently on New Year’s Eve to Roy Hodgson’s Crystal Palace. Their record makes the Arsenal ‘class of 2004’ look like mid-table also-rans so far…
Whilst football has evolved significantly over the past decade and a half, the same has to be said for the quality of opposition. The Premier League of today has many expensively assembled teams and is arguably more competitive than it was in 2003/04. Still, Man City thrive and continue to astound pundits and fans alike. Many observers will comment that Man City have spent many more millions on their side than Wenger did, but likewise, their opponents have done exactly the same. Nothing can detract from the absolute dominance being exerted by City this season.
Their nearest rivals, Manchester United, are 80/1 on bet365’s Premier League betting market, even with half of the season still to play. The margin by which Man City lead the title race is unparalleled, especially by mid-January. 15 points separate the two Manchester clubs; the same margin separates the top five in most major European leagues. At this pace, they could have the title wrapped up by Easter, just in time to concentrate on a Champions League final; something they’re also favourites to win.
If they’re going to be remembered forever, though, they’re not just going to have to win trophies, but they’ll need to go the whole season unbeaten, sharing a unique piece of history with one of the most legendary sides in Premier League history. All signs point to them achieving it, but over the next couple of months, a host of rivals will want to ensure they don’t, none more so than Arsenal themselves who host City at the end of February. Can they do it? Only time will tell but one thing is for certain: Pep’s side are already something very special indeed.