Whilst Manchester City were deserved favourites pre season to win the 2017/18 Premier League title, and tipped by the author to do so, the manner in which they are seemingly waltzing to the title, beating all before them, was not so widely predicted and leaves many a football lover wondering :
Are Manchester City just that good? Or is the rest of the Premier League really quite ordinary?
ARGUMENT FOR CITY BEING THAT GOOD
Their record speaks for itself. 17 games played, 16 wins, just the one draw, 52 goals scored and just 11 conceded. That’s an average scoreline, per game, of basically 3-0.5 – which borders on the sublime to the ridiculous. They have already won away at their two closest challengers – and of the top 6 clubs currently, only have Tottenham Hotspur to face before they can say every team has been played at least once. They are already eleven points clear atop the Premier League table, and have five different players with at least 5 goals to their credit, with three of the top four players in the Assists table. They are on pace to break every Premier League record going, and are listed amongst well known UK bookmakers at just 11/2 to go through the season unbeaten.
Under Pep Guardiola, Manchester City are playing a brand of football rarely seen in English football. Expansive, fluid, passing football that we usually enjoy seeing from our Spanish counterparts, of which Guardiola was so well known for at his time at Barcelona. It is maybe, arguably, much easier to do with the resources, both financially and playing, that Guardiola has at his disposal…but whilst there have been many special teams in Premier League folklore, Guardiola’s current Manchester City side, one feels, stand on the cusp of being ranked ahead of them all – and maybe its just time to acknowledge that this City side just have ‘it’. Which is certainly enough for the Premier League title it seems….and surely they will have no better chance to be crowned Champions of Europe also than this season, with only really PSG and Barcelona providing, you suspect, any real opposition for them. In terms of the domestic Cups, it will depend how Guardiola views them, maybe using them as opportunities to give his squad some playing time which may well see them fall. But the two League competitions will be where Manchester City are ultimately judged…and currently, it is hard to see them be anything other than the Champions they look.
ARGUMENT FOR THE REST OF THE PREMIER LEAGUE BEING ORDINARY
Manchester City can only beat what has been put in front of them…but, for reasons mentioned above, questions must be asked just what standard has been put in front of them.
Looking at the current league table without City, it would seem the usual exciting, energetic Premier League race. Close, breathless games (for the most part) with even second and third tier teams providing the upsets and having their moments along the way. But this is where City’s excellence has to be factored in. They have been immune from these results – something which, in pretty much every Premier League season past, hasn’t been the case for (eventual) Champions. The current high points tally for the Premier League stands at Chelsea’s 95 points (2004/05 season) – accruing a 29-8-1 record along the way. After 17 games, they had W12 D4 L1 – and would today stand 9 points behind City who have the W16 D1 L0 record. It was, ironically, City who handed Chelsea their sole defeat that season, but Chelsea would draw with Bolton, Aston Villa in those 17 games, as well as Spurs and Arsenal, whilst later also dropping points to Birmingham City and Newcastle United. Last season, eventual winners, again Chelsea, had already lost 2 games and would go on to lose three more.
Of those chasing Manchester City, all look vulnerable and unable to maintain the pressure on City due to inconsistencies. Neighbours United have already lost to Huddersfield Town and drawn at Stoke. Chelsea in third place have lost at then bottom club Crystal Palace, Burnley and West Ham. Arsenal, Spurs and Liverpool, expected to be in the title race, all have only won 2 games in their last 5, and all look incapable of form anything other than that. It has meant that Burnley now occupy a top 6 place and have a real opportunity of staying there. Why not? They have conceded far less goals than their bigger named peers and have proved that one goal is often enough to collect three points. And….they have taken points off all of the teams above them…..apart from City (with United still to play).
It is some indictment of the Premier League that Arsenal, in 7th place, are closer to the relegation zone, points wise, than top spot. Yet are only 1 point off a Champions League qualifying place.
At the bottom, just 6 points separate Swansea, at the bottom of the table, from Southampton in 11th spot. Half of the Premier League teams.
Normally, we would be enjoying this as a typical blood and thunder Premier League season. Whether great in its competiveness and depth, or actually because there is no real dominance in past seasons, its poorer than we think (should Leicester City EVER really win the Premier League?). But Manchester City’s absolute dominance is having a profound effect on English football – and the fact remains that their sole loss this season has come in Europe – albeit a facile loss to Shakhtar with the group already won on the back of five wins from five games.
Just where their next loss is coming from remains to be seen….if indeed there is one forthcoming at all, this season.
We believe this Manchester City team will go down as one of the, if not the, greatest teams in Premier League and English footballing history. Support them or not, it will be intriguing to see how this develops over the season.