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With Liverpool tearing up the Premier League this season, what better time to trawl through the archives and look at the best teams that the league has ever seen. Here we’ll look at the Manchester United (1998/99) treble-winning team, Arsenal’s (2003/04) ‘Invincibles’, Jose Mourinho’s (2004/05) Chelsea Champions, Man City’s (2017/18) recording-breaking boys and Jurgen Klopp’s (2019/20) current Liverpool side.
Manchester United – 1998/99:
Still to this day the only English team to win the treble, (the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup), this side is packed to the brim with legends. Brace yourself: Peter Schmeichel, Gary and Phil Neville, Jaap Stam, David Beckham, Teddy Sheringham, Andy Cole, Roy Keane, Paul Scholes, Dwight Yorke, Ryan Giggs, Ole Gunnar Solskaer……and breathe. Never has an English team dominated the league so much since Bill Shankley’s Liverpool in the pre-Premier League era. Despite being nothing short of a shambles since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson, United are still the Premier League’s most successful side. And this team had not just national, but European, domination. With a spine of fearlessness through Schmeichel, Stam and Keane, to a blisteringly fast and efficient counter with the likes of Giggs and Becks, this is possibly the most common shout for the greatest Premier League team ever.
Arsenal – 2003/04:
Wenger waltzed into English football as a complete unknown. Coming from the Japanese side Nagoya Grampus Eight, he completely rebuilt a legendary George Graham team known for their defiant defending. It’s fair to say that the Premier League would not have advanced in the way that it has if it wasn’t for the influence of Wenger. Bringing in diet plans and exercise routines involving yoga revolutionised the way in which we viewed football as a sport. Before this, players were known to drink half-time pints, eat pre-game steaks and care less about their health than your average bloke in the pub. The invincible Arsenal team opened the door for foreign players, foreign investment and the Premier League becoming an expansive global enterprise. The success of the Premier League is largely down to Wenger, but he eventually became the victim of his own influence. But this team, with the solidity of Patrick Viera, Martin Keown and Sol Campbell; and the flair of Robert Pires, Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp, was always a recipe for success. That was proved by being the only team in history to go an entire season in the Premier League unbeaten. No one could doubt that this is, at least one of, the best of the teams to that the Premier League has ever seen.
Chelsea – 2004/05:
When a fresh-faced Mourinho brashly bounced into English football, there wasn’t a single soul not completely transfixed. A far cry from the grumpy git we see on the sideline these days, Jose back then was a mischievous tactical genius who had managed to drag a bang average Porto team to Champions League glory. However, despite this, this Chelsea team is probably the least obvious choice within the selection. They too dabbled in the tried and tested mix of leadership (with the likes of John Terry and Petr Cech) and flair (such as Arjen Robben and Joe Cole). But they won games with pragmatism (they ‘did a job’) and were certainly not the most exciting team to watch out of the ones in this list.
Manchester City – 2017/18:
To borrow the words of Ruud Gullit, this City side played “sexy football”. This team were so easy on the eye, they played with domination and flair, and they proved that Pep Guardiola philosophy could work in the Premier League. This team were also the first team since Fergie’s United to win back-to-back titles. Many people are going to criticise saying that they bought the league and that we cannot praise them too much because of the money that they spent. I don’t accept this criticism. Just as ‘money can’t buy you love’, the same is true of a successful football team. Plenty of teams have splashed the cash and failed to deliver. Philosophy is where footballing success emanates. It’s no surprise that Guardiola and Mauricio Pochettino have seen success, as they are disciples of a football philosopher, Marcelo Bielsa (Pep even had the added influence of Johan Cruyff). And if the current season has shown you anything, it’s that a sense of identity stemming from philosophical leadership is vital to performance – it’s no coincidence that City are miles off the pace in the first season that their talisman, Vincent Kompany, is no longer at the club. The 2017/18 team were the first to reach 100 points; they had the highest average possession stats of any past Premier League team; most goals scored (106); total wins achieved (32) in a single season; largest winning margin (19 pts); largest goal difference (+79); and this is just to name a few!
Klopp joined Liverpool when he was proving his exciting, expansive style and Liverpool was repeating their tendency to ‘slip up’ in the Premier League. He was patient. He knew what needed fixing, and wasn’t willing to settle for anything less. The record signings of Virgil Van Dijk and Allisson Becker are perfect examples of this. When Klopp took over, his team were gung-ho; they were one of the most exciting teams I have ever watched. But they dropped points, and Klopp wised up. Klopp’s side this season has been much more pragmatic, and they often win games by one goal. With their 2019 Champions League title and the Premier League crown surely on the way this season, Klopp has created a truly dominant force. So far this season they’ve gone unbeaten and have only drawn one solitary game (at the time of writing).
Now here is the order in which I would rate them. Before you come barging down my door telling me that this decision was a disgrace, check out my reasoning.
- Manchester Utd – 1998/99 Treble Winners.
- Arsenal – 2003/04 Invincibles.
- Manchester City – 2017/19 Record Breakers.
- Liverpool – 2019/20 Klopp’s Creation.
- Chelsea – 2004/05 Mourinho’s Masterclass.
I have to say that this order could change depending on what happens during this season. If Liverpool goes the entire season unbeaten, then they leapfrog City into third place for me. You could argue that, should they go the season unbeaten, that they could even be above Arsenal’s Invincibles. Although it seems painful to compare this Liverpool team to that iconic Arsenal side, Liverpool would have to draw 11 out of their remaining 13 league games (at the time of writing) to fail to have a better win percentage than Arsenal’s Invincibles (should they not lose). Sit down and enjoy the ride of the Premier League, because we could be witnessing history in the making.