Once again, it seems the recurring theme of the runaway title race is upon us. The question many Premier League fans are asking themselves (especially those who support a team actually involved in the title race) is can anyone catch Manchester City and buck the trend?
It is with astounding regularity that the Premier League is touted as “the best in the world”, in spite of this a common theme has begun to develop. If City beat United in this weekend’s battle between the blue and red halves of Manchester, then a near unassailable 11 point gap will present itself between the two sides and for the neutral supporter that spells trouble. For good reason too, it’s been a long time since a Premier League season has gone down to the wire, although Aguero’s final day drama five years ago will almost certainly never be replicated, a minor re-enactment would be lapped up by fans up and down the country.Embed from Getty Images
In more recent years, Chelsea have twice strolled to the title, with Leicester’s impossible dream sandwiched between. Despite the latter being simply the most remarkable achievement of any team in the history of this division, not one of these campaigns has produced an enthralling final day.
Despite so much expectancy of the two Manchester sides last season, it’s very difficult to suggest either delivered. Mourinho will without doubt claim he won three trophies to Guardiola’s none, but neither team lit up the league, allowing Antonio Conte to lift the title with relative ease.
This term though that’s all changed, City heavily recruiting in defence ultimately installing something money can’t buy, an overwhelming desire to succeed after Pep’s first barren year in management. Couple this with a collective cohesion shown in abundance, by Sterling’s dramatics against Southampton, cue the entire Blue’s players, staff and an injured Benjamin Mendy losing every degree of sanity on the touchline. Just days later remarkably repeating this achievement courtesy of Silva’s late strike at an equally resilient West Ham and suddenly this squad has champions written all over it.Embed from Getty Images
Their opponents this weekend, in the form of Manchester United look the most likely of all to halt Guardiola’s dash to a first piece of English silver-wear, overcoming an impressive Arsenal side to maintain the gap. David De Gea is certainly to thank for that, baffling Lacazette on more than one occasion, culminating in a look of pure disbelief after the Spaniard produced an astonishing double save.
The contrast of Mourinho’s notorious pragmatism, up against Pep’s irresistible attacking force should make for an entertaining encounter in theory, but the loss of Pogba may yet prove to be the decisive factor. It’s of no coincidence Lukaku’s dry spell happened to coincide with the time the Frenchman spent out injured, as the chemistry between the two is undeniable. However, Jose has proved himself against the Spanish tactician in rather more unfavourable circumstances courtesy of that famous Inter Milan win, en route to winning the Champions League.
Each week it’s increasingly difficult to look past either Manchester teams for other title contenders. Liverpool’s mercurial Mo Salah keeping their hopes hanging on by an ever thinning thread, while Arsenal continue to do what they’ve become known for in recent years, maintaining the position of nearly men, despite showing a little more fight of late. Let’s be honest though, who really thought this was either of their years? Unbelievably Tottenham seem completely out of the frame, a shadow of the dominant force they were last term on a domestic level.Embed from Getty Images
The drain of European adventures might prove to be the cause of this problem, in a side still establishing its position as a regular Champions League feature. Chelsea might just prove to be the most puzzling of all, on the face of things relinquishing some vital assets this summer, with reasonable doubt over the quality of replacements. A run deep into the Champions League may prove to be detrimental as they appear to severely lack depth beyond a stellar starting 11.
Ultimately, City’s short voyage to old Trafford could have an astounding influence on how the title race shapes up entering the hectic Christmas period. There’s scarcely another team they’ll want to play more this weekend, desperate to break that 13 consecutive win record in a single season against bitter rivals.
Written by Harvey Sayer.