And then there were two. Chelsea’s 3-1 loss to Tottenham Saturday leaves only Manchester City and Liverpool unbeaten in the Premier League this season. The defeat also puts what seems to be the final nail in the coffin of Chelsea’s title campaign, early in the season though it may be.
With 33 points over 13 games, Liverpool now sits two points behind City for the league lead. The Reds also rest three points ahead of Tottenham and five ahead of Chelsea. At this point they seem to represent the only realistic competition as City looks for a second straight title.
However, though Liverpool has valiantly hung in with its competitors to the east so far, City will nonetheless lift silverware come May. The Manchester outfit has simply been too dominant, and while Liverpool will at least keep things interesting for a while, there’s no one stopping City.
A simple look at City’s 11 wins and two draws to Liverpool’s 10 and three paints a picture of a second place team that is one lucky break away from sharing the lead in points. A closer examination, however, reveals the stranglehold City has on the league.
Both clubs have been strong at the back so far this year, each giving up only five goals in 13 games. But while Liverpool has been comfortably putting games away by one or two goals, City has been riding roughshod over its competition. Liverpool has found the back of the net 26 times to date, while City has already done so on 40 occasions. City’s resulting plus-35 goal differential is more than that of second-place Liverpool and third-place Tottenham combined.
That high-scoring offense doesn’t just show itself in easy matches either. While City has run up the score in 6-1 wins against both Huddersfield and Southampton, the team also beat Arsenal and Chelsea by two-point margins without conceding a goal. Against the same opponents, Liverpool has come away with two draws this season, with the tie against Chelsea coming days after a loss to the Blues in a League Cup match.
Beyond simple statistics, City has consistently shown class, even when tired legs and injuries threatened to slow the team down. Against a well-rested West Ham United Saturday, City scored four times and kept a clean sheet. With most of its players coming off of long travel and extra games during the international break, the Manchester club still managed to score three times in the first 35 minutes — each time making West Ham look like they had no business playing on the same field. In Pep Guardiola’s third season as manager, the team looks to be fully adapted to his system of play, and City practically walks the ball in at will against bottom-half opponents.
That isn’t to say Liverpool is undeserving of its high league position. The Reds cruised to their own convincing win Saturday, beating Watford 3-0. With an appearance in last year’s Champions League Final on their resume, they certainly stand among the top teams in Europe. Yet City has amassed such a deep pool of talent and implemented such an effective system of play that even a top team in Europe simply isn’t catching the Cityzens.
Two points may seem to be an insignificant lead with two thirds of the season left to play. To a certain extent it is, but it masks the disparity between the two teams that have still yet to lose in this Premier League season. By the time the busy holiday schedule of games comes to an end, don’t be surprised if that two points has turned into an insurmountable lead for the men from Manchester.
Right now, the Premier League title race holds the illusion of competition, but as the season wears on, it will become a coronation.
Patrick Nugent ’21 can be reached at email@example.com. Please send responses to this opinion to firstname.lastname@example.org and op-eds to email@example.com.