How am I supposed to explain to future grandkids that this Manchester City team didn’t win the Premier League in 2019/20? Further than that, how am I supposed to explain that they were objectively abject failures, among the worst title contenders since the league’s inception?
Manchester City carved through Burnley as if they weren’t even on the pitch at the same time last night, a 5-0 thrashing flattered the visitors to City’s Etihad Stadium.
Among the goals, former Leicester title-winner Riyad Mahrez with a brace, including a particularly deadly lash across goal beyond the helpless Nick Pope.
And Phil Foden, the much-hyped English wonderkid finally being handed an opportunity to prove his worth as David Silva’s long-term replacement. Oh, the Spanish veteran also found the net last night.
The liquid movement of City’s attacking ranks is off the scale – slippery, slick, superb. The game may have been played behind closed doors, but there were at least 11 spectators in attendance, dressed in Burnley kits on the field.
Pep Guardiola’s minions managed this despite Sergio Aguero struggling – and being subbed off – with a knee issue. They achieved it with the best player in the Premier League, Kevin De Bruyne, sitting on the socially-distanced bench. They’ve managed similar performances without the injured Leroy Sane, who made his first appearance since August 2019 last night.
The way they have played in the opening two games of the restart, it’s near-impossible to see how they won’t win the league at a canter in 2020/21, and yet, in the eyes of the world for years to come, this campaign will be etched into history as an outright failure.
Their win, coupled with Liverpool’s draw with Everton, has seen them ‘close the gap’ to ‘just’ 20 points. Throughout lockdown, the gulf was 22 points. How did they get it so badly wrong? I’m at a loss as to how we respond.
City have lost seven games out of 30, far too great a proportion to mount a title challenge in any campaign. Those defeats have come at staggered intervals, usually on a monthly basis, but every single loss has been followed up with a victory. City have kept six clean sheets in the seven Premier League encounters directly after a loss, including an 8-0 walloping of Watford.
Should we praise City for their A+ form or scrutinise the fact they’ve churned out too many C- duds this term?
Liverpool are a wonderful team, a winning machine at all costs, and City’s squad is one of the deepest, strongest units the league has ever witnessed, yet the title race was effectively over by Christmas.
The largest winning margin in a Premier League title race was set by City in 2017/18 when they waltzed over the line with a 19-point cushion on United. Arsenal’s Invincibles only triumphed by 11 points in the end, yet City could be the first runners up to finish more than 20 points off the summit.
They are the worst runners up in history, but as a team, they rank among the very best. Make sense of that.
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