While Arsenal come into Thursday’s Premier League match against Manchester City 27 points behind their opponents, having lost to the same side in the Carabao Cup final on Sunday, boss Arsene Wenger may still have a little smile on his face.
For all City’s dominance this campaign – they all-but have the Premier League sewn up, and may yet add the Champions League to their impressive haul, their 4-3 defeat to Liverpool in January means they cannot finish a season unbeaten.
Other than Preston North End, who achieved the feat in English football’s first ever edition in 1888/89, Wenger and Arsenal were the only ever team to complete an ‘invincible’ season, not being beaten in any of their 38 Premier League matches in 2003/04.
That side of Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira and Dennis Bergkamp is regarded as one of English football’s greatest sides – not just in the Premier League era, but perhaps ever.
Pep Guardiola’s City have swept away all before them this season, and as they visit the Emirates on Thursday, we’ve done some research to try and find whether the invincibles were all they were cracked up to be – or whether Guardiola’s men are in fact better.
Amazingly, given the lofty status that the invincibles command within the English game, they’re being outdone in nearly every regard by this current City outfit.
If there was one criticism of Wenger’s Gunners during that run, it was that they drew too many games, winning just 68% of their matches, and drawing the other 32%.
That compares badly to City’s 85% win percentage – an incredible 23 of their 27 matches.
To put that in perspective, if they carried that on until the rest of the season, they would end up with 32 wins – a Premier League record, and comfortably more than the 26 managed by Arsenal in 2004.
The Gunners finished on 90 points – a fine figure, equating to 2.37 points per game.
However, that seems likely to be eclipsed by City, who could become the first Premier League team to push through the 100-point barrier.
If City continue at their current rate of 2.67 points per game, they’ll end on 101 points – a full 11 more than the invincibles.
City’s remarkable figures isn’t just limited to their ability to win – they’ve been doing it in style too.
Filled to the seams with attacking talent, and the ability for players throughout the team to find the net, City have been scoring for fun, with 79 goals from their 27 matches so far.
That works out as 2.93 goals a game, amazingly, a full goal a game more than the invincibles – hardly a team who were shy of a goal themselves.
The Gunners were the league’s top scorers with 73 goals in 2003/04, with Henry netting 30 to claim the Golden Boot – but even with 11 games remaining, City have surpassed the invicibles’ mark.
It almost doesn’t need to be said, but City’s goalscoring means they are on for another all-time Premier League record.
If they carry on as they are, they’ll end on 111 goals – more than Chelsea’s 103 in 2009/10.
One crumb of comfort for Wenger is that his famous side were tighter defensively than City this term, with his invincibles only conceding 0.68 goals per game, compared to 0.74 for the Manchester club.
That may not mean much as City visit on Thursday, with Wenger’s class of 2017/18 letting in 1.33 per match – and after being comprehensively beaten at Wembley on Sunday, it could be another long evening for the Gunners.
Arsenal’s invincibles aren’t the only great Premier League side that are being put in the shade by City this season – they look all set to outrank every other PL champion over the 26 years of the league.
The current Premier League points record is held by Chelsea, when Jose Mourinho took the title with 95 points in his first season in England, in 2004/05.
That record looks in serious threat, given City’s current ratio per game of 2.67 will give them those 101 points mentioned earlier.
City also top the pile with their win percentage of 85 (beating another Chelsea record, 79% last year), and their own record of a +64 goal difference will almost certainly be beaten too.
Mourinho won’t be happy to see his name removed from the record books – especially to bitter rival Guardiola, though he should still be able to keep at least once piece of history.
His miserly Chelsea side let in just 22 goals in that 2004/05 campaign, at 0.39 a game, and while City are still below that mark (on 20 goals conceded), it’s unlikely they’ll be able to better that record.
As City prepare to take on Arsenal on Thursday, their place in the history books seems assured, even with 11 Premier League games to go.
However, while City may be able to claim another victory at the Emirates, they won’t have the honour of going through a season unbeaten like the Gunners – for this year, at least.
Header Photo Credit: SCANPIX / CARL RECINE