Big Match

Football: Reds can be 'Invincibles' this season, says Unai Emery

Unai Emery believes the development they have shown from flirting with Europe to top-four contenders to current league front-runners makes the Reds "an example" for his team.
Unai Emery believes the development they have shown from flirting with Europe to top-four contenders to current league front-runners makes the Reds "an example" for his team.PHOTO: AFP

Emery feels they can match Arsenal's feat but Klopp says comments are mind games

LONDON • Unai Emery feels Liverpool can match the achievement of Arsenal's "Invincibles" by going unbeaten in the Premier League this season.

His predecessor Arsene Wenger won 26 matches in the 2003-04 term to become the second side, after Preston North End in 1889, not to lose a league game in a season.

Manchester City lost twice last season and Chelsea once in the 2004-05 term despite both clubs' considerable wealth and abundance of star players, illustrating how difficult it has been for teams to replicate Wenger's feat.

But Liverpool, who are on an eight-game winning streak, have racked up 16 league victories with just three draws and have a six-point lead at the top of the table as they host the Gunners today.

Emery believes the development they have shown from flirting with Europe to top-four contenders to current league front-runners - Jurgen Klopp's men were installed as title favourites by British bookmakers on Thursday - makes the Reds "an example" for his team.

He said: "Liverpool are doing it and they can do it (by remaining undefeated until the end of the season). The progression is clear.

"They were out of the Champions League, we need to be demanding of ourselves, but time and patience are very important."

However, the Spaniard will not only have to prepare for the "very big test" amid rumours surrounding the futures of Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey, and doubts over defenders Hector Bellerin, Shkodran Mustafi and Nacho Monreal, but also a looming Football Association (FA) charge over his head.

The FA on Thursday charged Emery with "improper conduct" after he kicked a water bottle at a Brighton fan during their 1-1 draw at the Amex Stadium.

Arsenal were also hit by the death of their former chairman Peter Hill-Wood, who stepped down in 2013 after 31 years, yesterday.

The 82-year-old, the third member of his family to fill the role, had been responsible for the hiring of Wenger and the club issued a statement expressing their "deep regret".

It read: "As we celebrate the unique achievement of 100 consecutive years in the top flight this season, the Hill-Wood family were at the helm for the lion's share of this special century... Peter and his family's influence on the club cannot be understated."

But Klopp still feels Arsenal, despite their issues and having dropped seven points since Dec 2, remain "a really good team".

Brushing off Emery's "Invincibles" comments as mind games, he said at his pre-match press conference yesterday: "That is not the Unai Emery I know. This is not them waving the white flag.

"It will be a really tough game. (Pierre-Emerick) Aubameyang and (Alexandre) Lacazette are a good strike two. They are strong with the ball, lively, counter-attacks are crazy-quick. (But) we are focused on ourselves."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE TIMES, LONDON

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 29, 2018, with the headline ''Reds can be invincibles''. Print Edition | Subscribe