Manchester City and Liverpool dished out two absolute hammerings to start off their Premier League campaigns; 5-0 and 4-1 respectively. Poor West Ham and Norwich had very few answers for Liverpool’s overloading on the wings and Man City’s dizzying passing. The results were no shock though, they were simply the first of many doings these two exceptional teams will produce this season as they once again tussle it out for the title.
Two teams fighting it out for the Premier League isn’t exactly a new thing. The league’s ultra-competitiveness has long been its biggest selling point. Like most leagues around Europe though, in the end, the title race usually boils down to two teams. What has separated England’s top-flight from the rest though has been variety. The same cluster of teams would be involved at the top end, but always in a different order. The perceived difficulty of retaining the title meant if Chelsea or Man City captured it one year, they were unlikely to the next. That’s changed though. The Premier League’s biggest USP has dwindled, and fans are going to have to just get used to it.
There is a duopoly at the minute. The likes of Chelsea, Arsenal, Spurs & Man United are simply unable to keep up with the current big two for an entire campaign. Why? Well those are several separate articles/dissertations in themselves, but at the minute they can’t really lay a glove on either of City and Liverpool.
That duopoly is also dependant on Jurgen Klopp’s men having another freakishly good campaign. To finish on 97 points, with a +67 GD and not walk away with the league is pretty incredible. Although Liverpool actually conceded one goal less than City last season, their xGA was much higher, meaning Allisson bailed them out much more than Ederson or Claudio Bravo were required to do for City. There is also the issue of teams simply becoming more aware of how to play against Liverpool and sitting as deep as possible to frustrate them (Norwich’s opening-day kamikaze approach aside). They don’t have the options Man City do for opening teams up. If England is to see anything close to a title race, The Reds will need to overachieve yet again.
English football fans and pundits have spent years deriding other leagues for their lack of competitiveness. Ligue 1, Bundesliga, Scottish Premiership, Serie A, the list goes on. “What’s the point?” asked by some 14 year old West Brom fan with 27 followers on Twitter. I have written before about the point of Scottish Football and the point of other European leagues that are dominated by the same couple of teams. Good news Premier League fanboys, it isn’t the end of the world!
Sky and BT will certainly not pack up the circus and head home. If someone is running away with the league, they will simply focus on something else. The race for the top four, battle for Europe, slog to stay up etc. The days of “anyone can beat anyone” might be gone, but they have been replaced with the question of who can take points off the champions? Celtic, Rangers, Juventus, Barca and the various other big dogs around Europe dropping points is big news, creating a huge moment for whichever diddy team has managed to do it.
That might be a bizarre thing for the average Premier League fan to think about, but they might finally develop an understanding of the “point” of leagues other than their own. You know one of Bayern or Dortmund will win the Bundesliga, just as you know one of Celtic or Rangers will win our Premiership. There’s a reason those leagues don’t just cease to exist, as much as “Kloppaholic” or “EliteEriksen” might wish they would. There’s so much more going on. Having one or two dominant teams actually creates stories in themselves.
It’s different, and I don’t doubt for a second fans and broadcasters would rather the “old” Premier League back (the competitiveness of which was a bit of a myth anyway), but this is where we are. Until Pep Guardiola leaves Manchester City, they will win the league, it’s as simple as that. Even after his departure, should they appoint the right head coach, they have the infrastructure and resources to dominate long after he’s gone.
This isn’t something that’s going to go away. Despite journalists telling us for years it simply couldn’t be done in England, Man City have taken the Premier League by the baws and will not be letting go until they see fit. As I’ve said though, it really isn’t such a bad thing. If the myriad of VLs on Twitter that like to make fun of other leagues now gain some perspective and maybe even shut up for a bit, then every single penny of Man City’s oil money has been worth it.
By Evan McFarlane (@EvanMcFarlane)