The Premier League title race has produced a plethora of enthralling finishes over the years, not least when Manchester City nicked it from local rivals Manchester United on goal difference in 2012. Ten years on, things are looking a lot simpler for the Blues.
If City can keep Liverpool and Chelsea at bay over the coming weeks, it will be their sixth title in 11 years. The English top flight is famous for being open and having a title race that doesn’t feature only one or two teams, as has been the case in some of the other major European leagues over recent years. However, another Premier League crown for City this term would certainly represent a commanding period of dominance for the Abu Dhabi-owned outfit.
The other five titles over the past 10 seasons have been claimed by Manchester United, Chelsea (2), Leicester City and Liverpool. No other club is anywhere near City, who’ve moved to another level of performance since Pep Guardiola arrived in Manchester in 2016.
The Blues may have lost out to Chelsea in Guardiola’s first season, but City are aiming for their fourth title in the five years since under their Spanish manager. And quite simply, the Etihad outfit have looked virtually unstoppable for some time now.
After losing their opening day fixture away to Tottenham, City went on an eight-match unbeaten run in the league, winning six. They suffered a shock 2-0 home defeat to bogey team Crystal Palace in late October, but responded to that setback like true champions.
City won 12 games on the bounce, scoring 33 goals and conceding only seven in the process, before their winning run was ended with a 1-1 draw away to Southampton towards the end of January. No other title contender has been able to match that sort of consistency, allowing the Blues to open up a commanding lead at the top of the table.
Liverpool look like the only team truly capable of reeling in the Citizens. The Reds started the season with a 10-match unbeaten run that included back-to-back 5-0 victories over Watford and Manchester United in October. However, Jurgen Klopp’s side drew four of those 10 games, even if two of those were against title rivals City and Chelsea, both on home soil.
The Reds lost their first game of the campaign 3-2 away to West Ham in November, bouncing back from that by winning their next six. That got them right back in the mix, but two draws and a defeat in a run of three straight away games against Tottenham, Leicester and Chelsea in late December and early January, along with some postponements, saw Liverpool lose serious ground to City.
Chelsea fared even worse over the winter. The Blues were hoping to build on last season’s European triumph and mount a sustained title challenge in a bid to claim their first Premier League title since 2017. They did well to hang on for a draw against Liverpool at Anfield despite going down to 10 men in the first half, but a 1-0 home defeat to City in September brought them back down to earth.
After losing to the team they beat in the Champions League final four months previously, Thomas Tuchel’s side went unbeaten in eight, before losing a London derby away to West Ham at the death. They responded with a late victory of their own against Leeds, but then went on an awful run of only one win in seven matches from mid-December to mid-January.
The Blues’ only defeat during that spell was another 1-0 loss to City, but all the dropped points well and truly dumped the west London club out of the title picture. It would take a remarkable loss of form from City for Chelsea to get back into it, while overhauling Liverpool is going to be incredibly tough too.
Despite finishing second last season, Manchester United are nowhere near a title challenge. The Reds went into the campaign full of optimism after bringing Cristiano Ronaldo home to Old Trafford, with the arrivals of Raphael Varane and Jadon Sancho expected to take United to the next level.
Those expectations were looking promising after the Reds won four of their first five matches, drawing the other away to Southampton, but then a run of only one win from seven matches cost Ole Gunnar Solskjaer his job.
The Norwegian rebuilt the foundations at Old Trafford that had been decimated by Jose Mourinho, but painful defeats to rivals Liverpool and City, followed by a 4-1 humiliation at relegation-threatened Watford saw the curtain fall on Solskjaer’s time at the wheel.
Tottenham were another club looking to rebuild from the ashes of a toxic Mourinho reign, with Spurs fans hopeful of mounting another title challenge this season under new manager Nuno Espirito Santo. The Portuguese had worked wonders at Wolves, but those hopes quickly evaporated amid a string of dour performances.
Antonio Conte arrived in north London at the start of November, on the back of his title triumph with Inter last season, where the Nerazzurri ended Juventus’s nine-year stranglehold on Serie A. The Italian coach went through his first nine games unbeaten, winning six, but the gap to the leaders in both league position and quality was clearly demonstrated in his first loss, as Tottenham went down 2-0 against rivals Chelsea.
The January transfer window showed the Spurs hierarchy appear set to back Conte in terms of how he takes the club forward, and there may be hope of a title challenge next season if appropriate funds are provided. No amount of funds would’ve helped them catch City this season, and that goes for most of the clubs in the league.
The Blues are operating on a different level at present, despite continued concerns about their lack of an out-and-out goalscorer. That’s probably the only thing that’s kept the likes of Liverpool within reach, although City’s superb defence and ability to share the goals around the team has paid dividends so far this term.
The holy grail for City, their owners and indeed their manager, remains the Champions League. It’ll be interesting to see how the resumption of European duties affects City, Liverpool and Chelsea.