Why there is no Premier League title race
Last week, Jamie Kynaston cautioned we shouldn't close the books on the Premier League title race. Ever the optimist, he felt there was still time for United to mount a challenge. Ironically, he mentioned how the Red Devils roared back against Newcastle in 1996 to capture the crown. I don't know whether the more recent Newcastle result changed his thinking, but it's irrelevant.
The way I see it, and I suspect most would agree, there hasn’t been any title race this season. And there will be none. From the very beginning, even when United was in peak form and matching City result for result in the first five matches, we instinctively knew where the Premier League title was headed. To the blue side of Manchester.
When Pep Guardiola took over Manchester City in the summer of 2016, many expected a new era at the Etihad stadium. His first season in charge did not go according to plan. City struggled to make an impact with a group of players past their prime. In both the Premier and Champions League, City struggled to stay afloat. The end product was arguably Guardiola’s worst year in football management. For the first time in his illustrious career as a manager, the Catalan did not win a single trophy all season.
Needless to say, Pep was disappointed in himself. He also understood the club's disappointment. He even confessed he would have been shown the door if the same had happened at Bayern or in Barcelona. Yet, so strong was their faith in Guardiola's ability to deliver, City’s hierarchy stuck with him.
Dutifullly, he set out to repay their faith. His second season in charge has balanced accounts. Cutting loose most of City’s old guard from the goalkeeper through to the attack line, Guardiola made sweeping changes to suit his style and ambition. In came the new.
Ederson Morais was brought in from Benfica to be the sweeper goalkeeper who was good both with his hands and feet. He could play from the back and could set up attacks in split seconds. And other things, too.
Benjamin Mendy, Kyle Walker, and Danilo were all brought in for the left and right back positions. A fortune was spent on fullbacks alone. Upfront, Bernardo Silva and Douglas Luiz were also recruited to complement City’s shining lights Fernandinho, Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva, Leroy Sane, and Raheem Sterling. Gabriel Jesus had already arrived in January 2017, to provide an option beyond Sergio Aguero.
The transformation was complete. A monster of a team emerged, ready to blow everyone away. The competition suddenly couldn’t compete. It was like Barcelona and Bayern Munich rolled into one and coached by the vintage pre-2016 Pep Guardiola.
Hope is a good thing because, in football, anything can happen. So, I do understand when people believe in the seemingly impossible. But, let's be real. With a sixteen point gap and 11 games to go, the Premier League is done and dusted. We can talk about next season but this one is all over. I mean, come on, Manchester City has lost a single game all season. Even then, City outplayed Liverpool, coming back from 4-1 to end the game 4-3 away. The better team did not win on the day. Uncharacteristic errors cost the better team. Guardiola, the obsessive perfectionist, will make certain that was a one-off.
Every time City has dropped points it has bounced back even stronger. The Sky Blues beat Bournemouth 2-1, Liverpool 5-0, Watford 6-0, and Crystal Palace 5-0 after drawing against Everton. They dismissed Watford 3-1 after drawing against Crystal Palace. Newcastle was humbled 3-1 after the Liverpool loss. Leicester City suffered 5-1 for the draw against Burnley. Pep's team is the champion-in-waiting.The facts don't lie.
Kevin De Bruyne is Europe's assist king, posting two more than Neymar to date. Sergio Aguero is the second-best striker in England. Both made history against Leicester, posting three assists and four goals respectively.
Manchester United may have clawed their way back from a 12-point gap to beat Newcastle to the title 22 years ago. With respect to Kevin Keegan. that Newcastle team did not have a coach who had won 14 trophies in just four seasons. Nor were Peter Beardsley, David Ginola, and Les Ferdinand, talented as they were, a match for City's attacking options. Sorry to burst Jamie's bubble, but the title race won't become close this season. It's only a matter of time.