City look unbeatable in Premier League title race

Sean Crosbie

With just 12 match weeks left to play in the Premier League this season, many fans will be looking back at a unique season of football.

The Covid-19 pandemic has played as big of a part in making this season one to remember. The empty stadiums and fake fan noises have become a part of football’s “new normal”, however, it is something that many will be glad to see gone from the game.

While the fans’ absence has led to a partial decline in intensity, this season has been as dramatic as ever.

Defending champions Liverpool have seen their hopes of retaining the title demolished thanks to numerous injuries and less than favourable results.

The first and most impactful injury for the side this season came against city rivals Everton in October, when Virgil Van Djik was left injured for the remainder of the season thanks to a rash challenge from Jordan Pickford.

Weeks before Van Djik’s injury, Liverpool’s title defence had looked questionable when they were beaten 7-2 away at Aston Villa.

Their formidable, 68-game unbeaten run at Anfield, would come to an end in January when Burnley beat them 1-0. Finishing in the top four is looking like a difficult task for Jürgen Klopp’s men.

The favourites for the title this season finished 18 points behind Liverpool last season, but Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City are back to their very best this year.

The partnership of Rúben Dias and John Stones in defence has given them a more solid foundation, while Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gündogan have flourished this season.

Phil Foden has proven to be a gifted player after finally breaking into City’s first team. The twenty-year-old is one of several English attacking midfielders taking the league by storm this season.

The red half of Manchester has improved this season, but United’s inconsistences have left many fans wondering what could have been.

In January they found themselves in first but have since fallen away. It is unlikely that they will be able to make up the 12-point gap between themselves and City.

However, a club-record 20-game unbeaten streak has been set by Solskjær’s men on the road this season.

The fortune of the club this season falls at the feet of Bruno Fernandes. The Portuguese midfielder has carried this United team and is a favourite for Player of The Year.

There have been many surprise packages this season, none more so than West Ham. With David Moyes at the helm and players like Declan Rice, Tomáš Souček and reinvigorated Jesse Lingard playing some of their best football, The Irons find themselves on the cusp of European football placed fourth in the table.

Leicester City have proven they have the capabilities to become a top four side, while Carlo Ancelotti’s Everton have improved immensely and found themselves challenging for Europa League football.

Leeds United have proven to be the pick of the bunch of the newly promoted sides. Marcelo Bielsa has brought a fast-paced, entertaining style of play to the Premier League.

Players like Patrick Bamford and Kalvin Phillips are having career-best seasons in the league this season.

Refereeing and VAR have been at the heart of nearly every controversy this season. From Bruno Fernandes scoring a game-winning penalty after the final whistle had already been blown to the wild inconsistencies of VAR decisions that have left fans, managers and players bewildered, it has not been a good season for officiating.

The 2020/21 season has potentially seen the emergence of another “Golden Generation”, for England.

Mason Mount, Jack Grealish, James Maddison and Phil Foden have all given Gareth Southgate a lot to think about in the middle of the pitch. While Bukayo Saka, Nick Pope and Dominic Calvert-Lewin have had breakout seasons.

For better or for worse, the 2020/21 Premier League season will go down as one of the most memorable seasons of the decade. Perhaps the extraordinary circumstances of the world will be remembered more than the football.

However, this season has provided a lot of big moments and talking points and it is safe to assume that this will continue until the season’s end.

Sean Crosbie

Image Credit: Premier League