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Liverpool unbeaten for a year in Premier League – how did they do it?

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Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino

Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino are two of three Liverpool players to score 10 or more Premier League goals in the past year

Liverpool’s victory over Sheffield United means they have a place in history as one of a select group of teams to have gone a year unbeaten in the Premier League.

The Reds have played 37 games without defeat – picking up 101 points in that time – since losing 2-1 to last season’s eventual champions Manchester City on 3 January 2019.

Jurgen Klopp’s side are the third Premier League team to manage a year without losing. Arsenal – whose 49 games included the entire 2003-04 season – and Chelsea (from October 2004 to November 2005) are the others.

Liverpool’s only domestic defeats in this period have been against Wolves in the FA Cup last January and their young team losing to Aston Villa in the Carabao Cup last month. If you include penalties you can throw in this season’s Community Shield too.

They have lost twice in the Champions League – against Barcelona in the semi-final first leg before their incredible second-leg revival – and against Napoli in this year’s group stages.

Despite that unbeaten run, Liverpool did not win any domestic trophies in 2019. Their success came in international tournaments, becoming the first English side to hold the Champions League, Uefa Super Cup and Fifa Club World Cup simultaneously.

The numbers behind Liverpool’s incredible year

Liverpool have picked up nine points more than Manchester City – and 35 more than anybody else in the past year

Since their last league defeat, Liverpool have won 32 of their 37 matches at a rate of 2.73 points per game. When Manchester City set a record total of 100 points in 2017-18, they did so at a rate of 2.63 points per game.

The Reds won nine straight fixtures at the end of last season but still missed out on the title to City. The Anfield side’s total of 97 points was the third highest in Premier League history and the most achieved by a runner-up.

That winning sequence continued into this season – a further eight successes stretching their run to 17 straight victories. A 1-1 draw at Manchester United in October meant they fell one game short of City’s record of 18 consecutive wins.

Liverpool now sit 13 points clear of second-placed Leicester City at the top of the Premier League, with a game in hand, but Reds fans might understandably be remaining cautious. Last season they became the only team to go into the new year seven points clear and not win the title.

Liverpool’s dynamic front three of Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah have been at the heart of their success over the past year, with no other player scoring more than six goals.

The Reds, who have scored in their past 29 Premier League games, have registered 89 goals in total in this year-long run, with only Mane (25), Salah (19) and Firmino (10) making it into double figures.

Virgil van Dijk (six) and Divock Origi (five) are the only others to hit five or more.

Eleven other players managed to score, with three own goals too.

The top assisters will not surprise you – Trent Alexander-Arnold (17) and Andrew Robertson (13) are the two players to set up 10 or more goals.

Liverpool’s top Premier League scorers in this unbeaten run. Six players have scored once

Where does this rank with the great unbeaten runs?

Twelve teams have gone a year or more unbeaten in Europe’s top five leagues (excluding sides whose run lasted fewer than 32 games like Preston in 1888-89). Of those, only three – including Liverpool – have failed to win a title during that year.

The Reds have a long way to go to match AC Milan’s remarkable unbeaten Serie A run from May 1991 to March 1993 – a sequence of 58 games lasting for 672 days.

To catch that the Reds will need to stay unbeaten until 5 November this year. If they managed to finish this campaign without defeat they would be second behind Milan on 50 games and 500 days, 584 by the time next season starts (if it begins the same weekend as this season).

Liverpool are still 12 matches short of Arsenal’s 49-game unbeaten run – including the Invincibles season of 2003-04 – which is the record for any team since the Football League began in 1888. The Gunners’ sequence lasted 539 days, which Liverpool would surpass if they end this season unbeaten.

The three then top-flight teams to have longer unbeaten runs than Liverpool all had their streaks ended by one of their main rivals. Manchester United ended Arsenal and Chelsea’s runs, with Liverpool beating Nottingham Forest.

But Klopp’s side still have some way to go to beat the British record of 62 league games unbeaten by Celtic between November 1915 and April 1917. The Glasgow club almost matched it again two years ago when they went 56 Scottish Premiership games – and 69 domestic matches – without defeat from May 2016 to December 2017.

The European record is likely to be out of Liverpool’s grasp – unless they can manage another two years without defeat. Steaua Bucharest went 104 league games (and 119 domestic matches) unbeaten between 1986 and 1989 – including three whole top-flight seasons.

Europe’s longest chronological unbeaten league run is Lincoln Red Imps’ 1,959-day (more than five-year) streak in the Gibraltar Premier Division from May 2009 to September 2014, a run of 88 matches.

In terms of points per game, Liverpool have the best record of any of the six English league teams to go 34 or more games unbeaten.

Table of English teams to go 34 games or more unbeaten – sorted by points per game and adjusted to three points for a win where necessary

Whose unbeaten runs have not produced any silverware?

Two European teams who have had an equal or longer unbeaten run than Liverpool failed to win the title in that time – Real Sociedad and Perugia.

Perugia have the distinction of going an entire league season unbeaten without ever winning the title. Their 11 wins and 19 draws from 30 games in 1978-79 saw them finish second in Serie A – their best finish – below Milan, who lost three matches.

Real Sociedad would go on to win the following two La Liga titles after the end of their unbeaten run during the 1979-80 campaign.

Huddersfield Town’s 43 league games unbeaten between December 2010 and November 2011 – the second best run in English history – was ultimately fruitless. They started and finished the run third in League One, with their 3-0 play-off final defeat by Peterborough United in the middle not counted as a league game.

What other records can Liverpool break?

Liverpool will break the European points record with ease if they continue with this form for the rest of the season.

The Reds will get 110 points if they match their points average for the first 20 games in the final 18.

The most points in a league campaign in Europe is Celtic’s 106 in 2016-17. The second and third? Barry’s 105 in 1996-97 and 104 the following season in the Welsh top flight.

Celtic (103 in 2001-02), Juventus (102 in 2013-14), Real Madrid (100, 2011-12) and Barcelona (100, 2012-13) were the only other teams in Europe to reach 100 points, according to a Uefa article in 2014.

Manchester City also reached that landmark in 2017-18.

Liverpool’s 101 points in this 37-game run would be a Premier League record over one season.

The Reds are 40 points away from their record of 98 in 1978-79 (adjusted to three points for a win) – but that was in a 42-game season. The Reds’ best points-per-game return was last season as they picked up 97 at a rate of 2.55 per game.

Having reached the milestone of a year unbeaten, Liverpool must now negotiate two significant obstacles before the end of the month.

Their next two Premier League games are away to Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham on Saturday, 11 January – the Portuguese famously oversaw a Chelsea win in 2014 which derailed Brendan Rodgers’ hopes of taking the title to Anfield – and at home to Manchester United, the only team to take a point off them all season, the following Sunday.

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