Premier League Title Race – The Wildest We’ve Seen Yet?
Liverpool and Manchester City keep spoiling us. Two of the last four Premier League title race finishes have been epics.
The Liverpool vs Man City rivalry has flourished, producing instant classic head-to-head matches and the highest standard of football at the summit of the English game.
Passing 90 points has become routine, and they are in a different stratosphere from the rest of the Premier League, and quite frankly, the rest of Europe.
Chelsea were 18 points behind Liverpool by the end of 2021-22. The gap was 15 when the Blues finished third in 2018-19.
Liverpool were 18 clear in their 2019-20 triumph, and City were 12 ahead of second-placed Manchester United in 2020-21. The pace they are setting is historic.
Liverpool were second with +1.45 expected goal difference per 90, which is marginally worse than Bayern’s 2021-22 mark in the Bundesliga. Manchester City were at +1.63. Chelsea were third and way behind at +0.82.
Tottenham were the only other Premier League outfit above +0.34. Every metric has Liverpool and City light years clear.
The outcome of Pep Guardiola contract talks might decide how long this continues.
Liverpool have some ageing key players and their own negotiations to get through, but Jurgen Klopp and the club’s hierarchy have shown an ability to sufficiently develop their own talent and evolve the squad with shrewd acquisitions like Ibrahima Konate, Luis Diaz and Diogo Jota.
City have just landed Erling Haaland, arguably the best centre forward on the planet. The Norwegian doesn’t turn 22 until July.
Guardiola was coy about his contract status in the aftermath of City’s dramatic title win. There have been rumours that he will extend his deal until after the 2024-25 campaign (it currently expires in 2023).
Liverpool had their own uncertainty to worry about with Mo Salah’s contract dispute. The Egyptian has confirmed he will remain on Merseyside through 2022-23, when he can become a free agent.
There hasn’t been even the faintest suggestion that Klopp will depart. Liverpool could yet win a treble this season if they can beat Real Madrid in the Champions League final.
There is no meaningful threat from the teams around them. Tottenham have a transfer kitty and ambition with Antonio Conte and Harry Kane set to stay, but they cannot close such a gap in one offseason.
Chelsea require a rebuild of their defence and continue to face turmoil even with their owners approved. Who knows what the future holds for Manchester United.
Liverpool and Manchester City are in a league of their own, playing almost perfect football through a 38-game season. It’s almost got to the point where the Premier League title race is a two-horse race and it starts in August.
Just as in 2012 and 2019, it went all the way to the final day. City, like their first Premier League triumph a decade ago, were staring down a humiliating home defeat.
Just like that day, though, they found a way with a spectacular six-minute turnaround against Steven Gerrard’s Aston Villa, led by Ilkay Gundogan.
Speaking to Sky Sports during the celebrations, Guardiola tried to sum up the emotions.
“The last game was special, a lot of emotion. They gave everything, the moment we got the goal changing everything.
“We are playing in a non-normal circumstance. After the second goal from Coutinho it was really difficult. Gundogan is the best runner in second positions that we have.
“He’s the best. Wow. We are legends. When you win in this country, four times in five years is because these guys are so good. First one 100 points, second one in Brighton, the third without people and this one with people the best.”
He’s right that it isn’t normal, but what is normal in this Liverpool vs Man City matchup any more? They have rewritten record books and ripped up what a Premier League title winner looks like.
Klopp’s Liverpool and Guardiola’s City are responsible for six of the eight highest points tallies in Premier League history.
Manchester United only broke the 90-point mark twice – Liverpool’s 92 in 2021-22 was more than any Red Devils iteration has achieved, including all of those Alex Ferguson title-winning sides.
Klopp’s disappointment on the final day was clear as once again he was left runner-up after a spectacular season.
The former Dortmund manager said, “Congratulations to Man City and Pep Guardiola. Thank you to Aston Villa and Wolverhampton for making a proper game of it.
“It’s not the result we wanted. It was a bit of a rollercoaster. I don’t know the results exactly but I know Villa were 1-0 up –- were they 2-0 up as well? Of course at the moment there’s disappointment here as well.
“92 points is absolutely incredible. We wanted it all, but now it’s OK.
“Finishing second is the story of my life. I’m still record holder for not getting promoted in Germany with the highest points tally. You need to get more points than any other teams, but we didn’t do that.”
“You can’t do more than give your absolute best and that’s what the boys did again. We chased the best team in the world to the wire, that’s absolutely special. We’ll build a team again and go again.”
This is special, but there’s a mightily thin line between an enthralling Premier League title race and tedious monopoly. Liverpool and City rely on each other to keep the league interesting right now.
While 2019 and 2022 provided spectacular finishes, 2020 and 2021 were processions, eerily similar to Bayern in the Bundesliga or PSG in Ligue 1.
Fans in the red half of Liverpool or blue half of Manchester would enjoy another cruise to the title in 2022-23. For the neutrals, though, it’s fingers crossed for another wild ride between these two all-time great teams.