The reigning champions have scored more goals and created more chances than the Reds this season.
A fleeting glance at the Premier League table gives one an impression that Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool are running away with the league, opening up a six-point lead as we approach the 10th game-week. The Reds have won all but one of their games thus far, with the front line of Mohammed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino combining with nonchalant fluidity yet again.
Reigning champions Manchester City, on the other hand, have endured their worst ever start to a league season under Pep Guardiola, losing games against bottom half sides Norwich City and Wolverhampton Wanderers, while also being held to a 2-2 draw at home against a faltering Tottenham Hotspurs.
While these results and the current league table may denote a fall from grace for the four-time Premier League champions, here is why Guardiola’s men still remain very much the team to beat in England.
Games against Wolves and Norwich aside, it has pretty much been normal service for the reigning champions, demolishing sides in their way with some swashbuckling, attacking football. The Cityzens have scored three goals or more in five of their nine Premier league games. They recorded the best ever win for the season, putting eight past a clueless Watford side just a week after their first defeat of the season.
5 - Manchester City's five goals after just 18 minutes is the fastest any side has ever gone 5-0 ahead in a @premierleague match in the competition's history. Ridiculous.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) September 21, 2019
Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero have been at their mercurial best this season, with both of them scoring in their first three games. Kevin de Bruyne, who missed a majority of last season due to injury, has got back to football like a fish to water and has been the most influential player in the Premier League in terms of goals and assists.
The Cityzens have bagged commanding wins in the Champions league and the cup competitions, scoring 13 goals in the four games cumulatively while conceding just once. All other English teams in the Champions league, on the other hand, have dropped points, losing at least one of their games in European competitions.
Also, contrary to popular belief, City’s defence has been pretty solid despite club legend Vincent Kompany parting for Belgium at the end of last season and Aymeric Laporte suffering a ligament injury early on in the season. Despite losing Laporte, Guardiola has managed to paper that weakness by playing Brazilian midfielder Fernandinho in the back line, showcasing the versatility of the team.
The European Champions started the season in a brilliant fashion, winning tricky games to Burnley and Southampton, as well as winning at home against Arsenal. However, in the past few weeks, that quality of performances have dipped a bit. They were given a real scare by Chelsea and Sheffield, where the game could have ended very differently had the opposition taken their chances.
As a football or soccer fan, I can absolutely say @ManCity is the most entertaining team to watch right now. The quality, technique, etc. No other team in the world can match this right now.
— OLUZ (@O_L_U_Z) October 19, 2019
Jurgen Klopp’s side have also had a few fortuitous decisions go their way, with VAR coming to their rescue in the games against Chelsea as well as Leicester City. The game against the Foxes in particular, where Sadio Mane won a penalty in the last minute of the game, a decision that could have been construed as a dive by another referee. Manchester City have had a last minute winner against Spurs ruled out by VAR in the middle of August.
Also, the Reds have had the luxury of playing with a full-strength squad until the middle of October while Man City have former first team regulars Leroy Sane and Laporte out with long term injuries. Even their strikers Aguero and Gabriel Jesus have suffered recurring niggles and have been unavailable for periods of the season, not allowing Guardiola to stick to a preferred team.
Liverpool’s perfect win record was thwarted by Manchester United in the last game-week, perhaps exposing a chink in the armour of Jurgen Klopp’s arsenal. With a majority of the season and the two league ties between City and the Reds yet to be played, it seems just a moment of time before Guardiola gets this side back to their mercurial best and help win a third consecutive domestic title.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Oli Scarff