Premier League: Can the title race be over already?

Once again, the Christmas fixture schedule has had an effect on the Premier League title race. John Roycroft looks at how the closest title race in years has changed so dramatically in a matter of weeks.
Premier League: Can the title race be over already?

Manchester City's Rodri (left) celebrates with team-mates after scoring the side's winning goal against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium, London. 

This weekend sees the Premier League clubs get their first taste of the FA Cup, allowing some the chance to take a breath after the frantic pace of the league's Christmas schedule.

This may be a welcome distraction for Chelsea and Liverpool, who have slipped off the pace set by leaders Manchester City. The London side are currently 10 points behind City, with Liverpool another point behind them, but with a game in hand on the leaders.

So is the title race over? The answer is yes... probably... maybe.

Should Liverpool win their game in hand against Leeds (not an easy task against a side fighting for survival), then they will cut the gap to eight points. This means Liverpool need a three-game swing to go a point ahead, all the while maintaining a perfect run of games themselves.

One game, in a desirable swing for Liverpool, is their own game against City. Turn that their way, it's a mere five-point margin.

The problem is that fixture is away to City and isn't until early April and the whole thing may be done and dusted by then.

A sooner solution for Liverpool would be to hope Chelsea can do them a favour when they face City at the end of this month. But once again, it is an away game and would also come at the cost of revitalising Chelsea's own title ambitions.

Cork's Caoimhin Kelleher put in an accomplished performance for Liverpool in their recent Premier League match against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. But could do little in the Merseysiders avoiding their sixth draw of the season. Picture: Catherine Ivill/Getty Images
Cork's Caoimhin Kelleher put in an accomplished performance for Liverpool in their recent Premier League match against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. But could do little in the Merseysiders avoiding their sixth draw of the season. Picture: Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

City strong

Presuming these permutations happen. It would leave Liverpool two points behind and in need of City slipping up once more. Not totally inconceivable as City will also be busy in both European and domestic cup runs one presumes. Normally, the thought of a football team losing three games in the final 15 matches of their season would not be a preposterous scenario. But then you look at City's recent league run and you start to think again. The current champions have been on a rather remarkable run of 11 straight victories. With few signs that this form will change any time soon.

City fragility at the start of the season seems like a long time ago. And while they have suffered the effects of the heavy schedule, injury, and Covid-19, (like all the other teams) they have dealt with it far better than their nearest rivals proving their strength of depth is far better than both Liverpool and Chelsea.

Few substitutions on the field for City look weaker than the player they replace. And Pep Guardiola has the team purring like a comfortable cat. While Liverpool have impressed with their exciting attacking front three. And Chelsea, especially earlier on, were a sight to behold with their efficient defence. City have maintained the pace at both ends, helped in no small part by a superior midfield too.

It's crazy really. Just two weeks ago, this season was looking like an epic three-way race to the title. Two results later and people are saying it's City's title to lose. How is this possible?

Drawing conclusions

A quick look at the table shows that the top three have lost only two games each, showing how tightly contested this league is. But as I warned, at the start of the season, the fragility of Liverpool and Chelsea, was their propensity to draw games. Chelsea and Liverpool drawing with each other last weekend was Chelsea's seventh and Liverpool's sixth time to share the spoils this season. Meanwhile, City matched their defeats by only drawing twice. The last one being way back in October against, guess who? Yup, away to Liverpool.

Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel gestures during their EFL win over Spurs during the week. But Chelsea have given up a bag of points recently due to a series of draws. Picture: John Walton/PA Wire.
Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel gestures during their EFL win over Spurs during the week. But Chelsea have given up a bag of points recently due to a series of draws. Picture: John Walton/PA Wire.

While never seen as the end of the world, a draw now is a killer for teams trying to stay in title contention. 

Every two points lost in a draw is a harsh blow on a team's run at the title end of a campaign. Way more than it was back in the day when there was only two points for a win. Back then, the hard work from gaining a draw still saw you in contention. A single-point game now should be greeted the same way a defeat is.

So there it is. Can City be caught? Certainly. It wouldn't be the most outlandish thing we've ever seen in the Premier League.

Will it happen? It would take an epic loss of form from City, something they have not done since Guardiola took charge.

More in this section

Sponsored Content

Add Echolive.ie to your home screen - easy access to Cork news, views, sport and more