Is this real life? We thought it was something last year when Chelsea became champions-elect by the start of November, but sweet Jesus, we’re only four games into the new season and it already looks nearly certain that Manchester City will lift the Premier League trophy come May.

Consider these facts:

  • City already have an eight point lead on their chief title rival, Chelsea
  • At the conclusion of last season—the one we just stated was all but mathematically over about a third of the way through—Chelsea wound up having outplayed second-place City by eight points
  • In order to rebound, José Mourinho’s men will have to, in effect, lose three fewer times than what has looked already to be a superior team
  • The other two legit title challengers, Arsenal and Manchester United, are five points behind City
  • United have failed to look even pretty good against anyone they’ve played this season, save lowly Club Brugge
  • Arsenal count [stifles laughter] Olivier Giroud and [openly weeping] Francis Coquelin as key starters
  • And oh, by the way, City have yet to feature their two newest acquisitions, Nicolás Otamendi (coming off a season as La Liga’s best center back) and Kevin De Bruyne (coming off a season as the best attacking force in the Bundesliga)

In summary, the team that has earned a commanding lead in the table thanks to consistently dominant performances hasn’t yet integrated two of what will likely be their best few players (seriously, do you know how good De Bruyne and Otamendi are?!? Like, really, really, really good!!), while there’s no obvious way for the struggling teams behind them to turn things around. I mean, just check this out:

Despite starting the campaign as at least co-favorites, Chelsea’s odds of winning are low because they now have only opportunity to potentially erase City’s lead by a guaranteed three points, whereas Arsenal could theoretically beat the Citizens twice. In a lot of ways, it’s not when you drop points that matters, it’s who you drop them against; by losing to City already and failing to win gimme games against Swansea and Crystal Palace, it would take a monumental comeback for them to retain their title. And it’s hard to imagine any of the other challengers sorting themselves out in time to run down the favorites at this point. As shocking as it sounds, City very well may have already done enough to separate themselves from the pack for good.

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The best part of soccer’s table format is its efficiency at crowning the best team over the course of a season. While the club that puts together the most impressive performances throughout the season typically winds up champion by the end, they don’t usually explode to such large leads this soon after the start. Barring multiple debilitating injuries or a couple of highly unlikely transfer coups, it’s a pretty good bet that the other title hopefuls will find themselves chasing after City for the duration, jostling amongst each other for a spot on the podium more so than really challenging for first.