Only one team has ever won four Premier League titles over a five-year stretch.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United achieved this feat between 1999 and 2003 and between 2007 and 2011. More than a decade later, there is another outfit on the brink of reaching the same milestone.
Eleven points clear at the top of the table, Manchester City are well on course for their fourth Premier League title in five years. What was billed before the start of the season as a four-way contest quickly became a one-horse race as Pep Guardiola’s side stretched their legs with 12 straight league victories.
By almost every measure, City are leading the way in the Premier League this season. Only Liverpool have scored more goals (55) than the defending champions (54), but City boast the best defensive record in the division, conceding just 13 goals in 22 games. Guardiola has built a team that is just as strong at the back as they are in attack.
City controls games like no other side. Their average share of possession (63.1%) is the highest in the Premier League this season, and by some distance. Liverpool are second with 58.4%. Their pass success rate of 89.9% is also a league high, as is their total of 17,740 touches over the season to date.
Realistically, Liverpool are the only team that can still catch Manchester City thanks to their firepower in the final third of the pitch. Mohamed Salah is currently the top scorer in the Premier League this season with 16 goals in just 20 appearances, while Liverpool’s average Expected Goals (xG) of 2.47 per match are also the highest in the division.
Salah and Sadio Mane’s involvement in the 2022 Africa Cup of Nations this month has depleted Liverpool’s attack at a crucial point of the campaign, but Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino still give Jurgen Klopp plenty to work with. Keeping up with City, however, might prove to be beyond the Anfield outfit.
The contest to clinch third and fourth place, and Champions League qualification, is where the real drama can be found, between now and the end of the season. Chelsea, West Ham, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United are all hoping to book their place in European club football’s most prestigious competition for next season.
How much of a favorite is Manchester City to win the EPL this season?
Not so long ago, Chelsea were the ones setting the pace at the top of the Premier League. Two wins from eight fixtures, however, have pulled Thomas Tuchel’s side closer to the top four race than the one to decide the title with the Blues, previously renowned for their defensive solidity, keeping just one clean sheet in their last 10 fixtures. Injuries to Ben Chilwell and N’Golo Kante have been a factor.
Chelsea signed Romelu Lukaku to be the attacking frontman the team previously lacked, but the Belgian has struggled to integrate at Stamford Bridge. This is somewhat baffling given that Tuchel’s system should be a good fit for Lukaku, a formidable force on the counter attack. There appears to be a difference of opinion between manager and player over the 28-year-old’s role in the team.
Antonio Conte’s Tottenham Hotspur could be a force to be reckoned with in the second half of the season. The Italian coach is getting his ideas across to his players. Harry Kane, who has scored four goals in his last eight appearances in all competitions, is finally showing signs of his best form again.
Spurs have kept a clean sheet in five of the eight Premier League matches they have played under Conte, but there are still concerns over the balance of their midfield. Most notably, Tottenham are producing 20.22 shot-creating actions per 90 minutes, which puts them behind other top four rivals including Chelsea (23.95), Manchester United (23.05) and Arsenal (23.00).
Speaking of the Gunners, Arsenal look to be finally heading in the right direction under Mikel Arteta. They’re just two points off West Ham, who they have two games in-hand over, in fourth place. They too have creativity issues of their own, though, producing just 2.50 goal-creating actions per 90 minutes this season. This suggests the Gunners often lack a final product.
Manchester United started the season aiming to challenge for the title, but their campaign quickly fell apart. Ralf Rangnick replaced Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, with few signs of improvement. Reports of division within the Old Trafford dressing room continue to surface.
Defensively, United have been extremely vulnerable, conceding two more goals (29) than Burnley (27) who sit at the foot of the table. Their midfield struggles to control possession while their attack lacks cohesion in pressing from the front. Indeed, only Newcastle United (725) and Burnley (629) have registered fewer successful pressures than Manchester United (740) this season. The summer signing of Cristiano Ronaldo hasn’t helped in this regard.
West Ham have been the surprise package of the 2021/22 campaign, although there were signs of their development under David Moyes last season when they finished sixth. Many expected the Hammers to fade away, for them to be a flash in the pan, but they have built on this success and currently sit in fourth place in the Premier League table.
Moyes’ team is averaging 3.00 goal-creating actions per 90 minutes, putting them behind only Liverpool (4.30), Manchester City (3.50) and Chelsea (3.41). If West Ham are to fall short in their attempt to qualify for the Champions League, it will be because of their lack of squad depth in relation to their rivals.
The 2021/22 Premier League title race may not have been as open as many predicted it to be, but there is still plenty to be settled between now and the end of the season, including at the bottom of the table where Newcastle United are doing their best to drag themselves away from danger. At the top end, though, Manchester City are making history.