Look, we get it. To a certain way of thinking, blowouts are bad, indisputable superiority is boring, and a season with a wire-to-wire table-topper isn’t as enthralling as a tightly competitive one. It would be nice if this year’s Premier League title race were a genuine competition between two or more clubs of equal quality, if we could look to the future and see nothing but gloriously foggy uncertainty as to who and how the eventual champion will earn its hard-fought trophy. Alas, this is not the case. Manchester City are hot on the trail of another dominating league win, and no one can stop them.
Though it’s still pretty early in the season, and while only two measly points separate the Premier League’s top three teams, it’s only becoming more and more clear that City remain a cut above the rest. It is true that Liverpool are legitimately phenomenal, and that Chelsea have been much more impressive than many predicted. But still, in literally every facet of the game, City are just better—so much so that, barring an injury crisis of historic proportion, the Citizens are huge favorites to walk the league once again.
This weekend was a fine demonstration of City’s outrageous abilities. Manchester’s blue club faced Southampton at home on Sunday, and City so comprehensibly crushed them that no natural disaster metaphor nor any likening of it to medieval torture tactics could aptly convey the ease and ruthlessness of their victory. We could—and we will—talk about City’s six goals, and Raheem Sterling’s continued ascension toward undeniable superstardom, and how absurdly simple Man City make carving apart solid teams in The Best League In The World™, but the match’s single-most staggering play, the on most indicative of City’s calmly savage style of play, was one in which they didn’t even score:
There’s just so much here. City’s ability to regularly get into their opponent’s penalty area, and their comfort with playing so deep inside enemy territory, and their decision-making that at all times prioritizes the best shot—not just any shot, even at times to their own detriment—is preposterous. The team played seven successful passes in the Saint’s box during that 20-second stretch, numbers some teams would feel pretty good about completing in an entire half. The players body-feinted and faked shots and nutmegged their way onto the doorstep of Southampton’s goal, with each additional move ratcheting up the pressure on the defense and the anticipation in a crowd that would’ve absolutely erupted had the play ended with the goal it deserved.
You could maybe criticize City for being too cute after all those neat little passes didn’t result in a shot until Kyle Walker thumped in a hopeless effort from long range, but then it would be rather silly to castigate a team for its profligacy in the middle of a 6-1 beatdown. It was simply one of the best passages of play of the young season, and it serves as a concise summation of the kind of non-stop destruction City have been successfully designed to cause at will.
Of course, there was much more to the game than that one wonderfully unconsummated flirtation with Southampton’s goal. City’s domination was constant and comprehensive, and made for a marvelous spectacle:
At this point it’s almost not even worth belaboring the many reasons why City are so fearsome and are rightfully considered huge favorites to repeat as champions of England. Raheem Sterling scored twice and created two more assists, furthering his claim as being maybe the best player in the Premier League. Sergio Agüero scored once and assisted twice in what has been a resurgent season for him. Leroy Sané, who was one of the breakout performers of last season but has seen his once locked-down starting position turn into a timeshare with Riyad Mahrez, came back into the team and promptly reminded everyone how good he is with a goal and an assist.
Bernardo Silva once again showed why Kevin De Bruyne’s (recently extended) injury absence has barely affected the team. David Silva was great even apart from the goal he scored and proved that the soon-to-be 33-year-old remains probably the single best attack-minded midfielder in England. (Though it’s still jarring to see him with that bald head.) City’s depth is so unbelievable that Gabriel Jesus, Brazil’s starting striker at the last World Cup, and Mahrez, not long ago the league’s player of the season, didn’t even play. The combination of top-quality starters, wildly over-qualified rotation options, and a playing style that puts all of these exceptional players in position to score goals and prevent the other team from doing so with clock-like regularity is what makes City truly peerless in the Premier League this season.
None of Man City’s rivals can come close to matching the total package the Citizens have on offer. Chelsea have been great under new manager Maurizio Sarri, and his possession-dominant and goal-friendly style comes close to approximating the system City boss Pep Guardiola has implemented, but both Chelsea’s starting lineup and its bench pale in comparison to City’s. It would be a genuine shock if Chelsea could keep up their current hot run of form for an entire season with their relatively inferior cast and give City a real run for their money atop the league table.
Liverpool, then, are the only true challenger to City’s dominance, but even they have notable shortcomings. Though Liverpool’s style of play is fantastic and fun as hell and is great at piling up wins in big games, it’s still a little too dependent on just a couple players to come up with goals to do the thing that’s most critical to a league-winning campaign: namely, to consistently beat the smaller teams. On top of that, the Reds have nowhere near the depth City can boast, which makes them more susceptible to a debilitating injury crisis or a couple weeks of poor form from their starters. There’s a reason Liverpool’s draw against City a month ago hurt them more than it did Manchester, and why their draw against Arsenal this weekend was another big blow to their chances. In order to pull off the upset, Liverpool would’ve needed just about every break to go their way, and they’ve already missed a couple big ones.
The case for Manchester City’s impending back-to-back title-winning seasons is hard to argue with. City score more goals (a league-leading 33) than anyone else, give up fewer goals (conceding just four times all year, the lowest number in the a league) than anyone else, have better offensive and defensive advanced stats than anyone else, have more great players than anyone else, and have a better coach than anyone else. They can beat the little teams and they can beat the big ones, with either their starters or their backups, and it never looks like all that much of a challenge to do so. So while we’d love if one or both of Liverpool and Chelsea had what it takes to push City to the brink (and while we still don’t expect City to wrap up the title with a whole month to spare like last time), we can’t pretend like anyone else has a realistic shot to win the league this year. There is simply no stopping them. City’s title will soon be here. Better to welcome the Citizen overlords before their new trophy arrives than to struggle futilely against the new order we know is on its way.