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Premier League Tease Turns into Another Blowout

February 7th, 2021 · No Comments · Arsenal, Champions League, English Premier League, Football, soccer

For a month, maybe two, it looked like one of the most competitive Premier League battles in recent history. In the early going, to scan the upper half of the league table was to find several names few would have expected.

West Ham, Everton, Tottenham and Leicester City all had their turn at the top of the standings. Chelsea. Manchester United spent a couple of weeks at the pinnacle, and so did defending champions Liverpool.

The churn continued, for a time. One unlikely team up, another headed down.

It was great fun to see a half-dozen clubs formulating plans for pushing on to the top … and several of those teams above (all, of them, I believe) were at the top for a day or three.

Then it was Liverpool, mostly, but the Reds looked a little soft, a bit vulnerable — a development perhaps to be expected when the club’s best player — centerback Virgil van Dijk — was lost for the season after a brutal challenge from Everton keeper Jordan Pickford.

Then came a spurt by Manchester United, led by the merry elf Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, but then his side lost to Sheffield United, the worst team in the division … and now what?

“Now what?” has an easy and perhaps obvious answer — the team that is going to wring out the excitement of this season:

Manchester City, of course.

I’m calling it here and now, even with 16, 17 Premier League matches to play: Manchester City, champions for the third time in four seasons.

Pep Guardiola’s team has won 13 consecutive Premier League matches, after a sluggish first month. What happened was this: Pep figured out what was wrong with his team — still trying to press high when the club’s real strength is in the back and in midfield.

He turned down the high press, and tightened up the back, and now scoring a goal against City is a major success. Just the one. Forget two.

The key people in the back and in midfield — and don’t forget the hideously tatted keeper, Ederson — include Ilkay Gundogan, Fernandinho, John Stones, Kyle Walker, Bernardo Silva, Benjamin Mendy … we could go on with another half-dozen semi-elite players ready to step in when Pep needs fresh legs out there.

This will mark the fourth successive lopsided final table, for the Premier League.

Last season, it was Liverpool on 99 points, 18 ahead of City and 33 points over third-place United.

In 2018-19, it was City, on 98 points. And, OK, yes, Liverpool chased City till the end, and posted 97 points, but both clubs were so strong that they ended the season with an assembly line of results. The best of the rest was Chelsea, on 72 points.

In 2017-18, the season that sparked the drudgery of one great team, Manchester City scored 100 points. Runners-up? Chelsea on 72 points, 22 behind City.

We could stand a genuine race. Very much so. A race good enough that the final month isn’t about who will be relegated (and this year we already know it will be Sheffield, West Brom and Fulham) and who will muddle along well enough to grab the two Champions League berths, as well as the two from the Europa.

So. I have about had my fill of Premier League parades instead of races. I’m sure many soccer fans feel the same way.

Is there a solution? Well, maybe. The league has a handful of clubs that used to be reliably competitive but are now falling off. Chelsea, United, Tottenham (Jose, really?) and, in particular, the anonymity that is Arsenal. (Can’t blame it on Mesut Ozil anymore.)

Could you guys pick up the pace a little?


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