Have Liverpool already ended the Premier League title race?
Background Image Via: Wikimedia Commons/Ruaraidh Gillies. CC BY-SA 2.0.
At the season's start, the overwhelming opinion was clear. Manchester City would look to defend their title with the only realistic challenge coming from European champions, Liverpool. Some touted Tottenham Hotspur as an outside chance after some excellent work in the transfer market, though the Lilywhites' inconsistency has already put an end to that.
We're now into October and the picture is being painted. Liverpool has picked up where they left off winning eight from eight picking up a maximum 24 points. Perfection. Manchester City, on the other hand, has faltered. They're already eight points adrift, losing two and drawing one. A blemished record for the self-proclaimed 'fourmidables'.
Glancing back at last term, Liverpool pushed City all the way. The 97-point tally mustered by Jurgen Klopp and the Red Men is comfortably the most valiant defeat in the Premier League era. That bittersweet feeling is undoubtedly what's pushing them on to strive for more. After all, even the most ardent Liverpool fan will admit that their football has been more about grinding out results as opposed to blitzing the opposition this time around. After all, it's a results business and the proof is in the proverbial pudding.
So is the title race over? Well, Manchester City dropped sixteen points in 2018/19. They're already halfway to that tally this time around while looking like an outfit who'll lose plenty more games given their defensive struggles. No game is easy in the Premier League, though you'd expect The Cityzens to be nigh-on perfect from now until the big meeting against Liverpool on November 10th. Lose that? Well, we'll be having a completely different conversation in one months'...
Nobody expects Liverpool to go perfect. While Paul Merson is dead-set in his views that Klopp's team won't finish the season unbeaten ala Arsenal 03/04. However, recent history says they'll be tough to beat. You don't need me to tell you just how special their front three is, while Virgil van Dijk may have taken a step back - but he's still comfortably the best centre-back in the country. On paper, when in full flow, it takes a 10/10 performance from whomever the opponent to even stay in the game against the Merseysiders.
I do have some question marks about Liverpool, mind. Right now, a lack of summer recruitment is looking like a masterstroke. What happens when Mohamed Salah picks up a semi-serious injury? Or any of the front three for that matter? Sure, Xherdan Shaqiri and Divock Origi are good players within their own right, but they're not consistently performing at that elite-level.
What walks hand-in-hand with injuries is players being over-worked. Liverpool has played one more game than City so far this term - the UEFA Super Cup against Chelsea. However, their December looks horrendous. Ten games will be played, including a trip to Qatar to partake in the UEFA Club World Cup. A prestigious trophy, no doubt, but their eyes are firmly fixated on bigger prizes. Those extra games with quick turnarounds before taking to the field again will eventually take its toll on the body. Football is more a squad game now than it ever was - and this is something to keep an eye on over the course of a long, arduous season.
Is the title race a forgone conclusion? Absolutely not, but Manchester City are treading a fine line. They have to improve to make it competitive, but they can take heart from how things unfolded this time just twelve months ago as they were in a similar situation...