Will This be the Best Title Race in Years?

For Liverpool, a game against 115 Charges FC is never easy. I remember well the euphoria that accompanied our win over them back in the 2013 2014 season, not just because it put us top and gave us a brilliant chance of winning the Premier League title for the first time since the rebrand but also because of how difficult it was to achieve in the sports washing era. Under Jürgen Klopp we’ve had our fair share of wins against them at Anfield, but victories at the Etihad have been a lot harder to come by. In spite of the fact that they are defending a treble, they feel more vulnerable this season. Losses to Arsenal and Wolverhampton Wanderers have given other sides reasons for encouragement, whilst the 4 4 draw with Chelsea demonstrated that they’re not as defensively solid as they have been in the past. It is with all that in mind that we went to Manchester on Saturday lunchtime, determined to put in a performance and not just roll over for Pep Guardiola’s team, as we have done so many times in recent history.

They are a very good side. Given the money spent and rules broken to assemble the squad they should be. Yet I have to admit to being a little bit disappointed with our performance in the first half. We struggled to impose ourselves on the game, which wasn’t helped by the goalkeeper having his worst game for us in as long as I can remember. In a shot stopping sense he was excellent, thwarting Erling Haaland in the immediate build up to our goal, but his distribution put us in trouble on more than a few occasions. That is where 115 Charges FC’s goal came from and they had a few more than a few other chances directly as a result of an Alisson Becker misjudgement. In the second half, though, we were much more like ourselves and, barring a few poor passes in the final third, could easily have left the ground with all three points. Given we were only a point behind them heading into the game, I wouldn’t have minded a defeat as long as it wasn’t a shellacking. With that in mind, a draw that keeps us in the hunt will more than do for me.

There are Plenty of Teams in the Chase

In some ways, this is a very strange Premier League season. The newly promoted sides look like the worst teams ever to come up as a group and a destined to head straight back down, even with Everton’s 10 point deduction. If a side other than those three is relegated then they will have had to imploded in spectacular fashion, such is the nature of how bad Sheffield United, Luton Town and Burnley actually are. At the top end of the table, meanwhile, there are plenty of teams that can be in the mix for the title if they get a fair wind behind them. We are used to be being dismissive of any team that didn’t compete for the title in the previous season, but Leicester City showed us all that even a relatively newly promoted team can take the top prize if everything goes their way. Many will be quick to scoff at the very idea of Aston Villa winning the Premier League, for example, but their home form is impressive enough to mean that, at the very least, they could end up being Kingmakers as the campaign progresses.

Given their form in Europe and other competitions, many have laughed at Manchester United this season. Whilst a win over Everton isn’t exactly something a self respecting side to celebrate, their victory at Goodison Park means that it is four wins in their last five for the Red Devils. That makes them the joint form team in the Premier League alongside the aforementioned Aston Villa. They sit six points off the top having played City and Tottenham Hotspur already. I don’t think they’ll win the league, but decades of seeing them do exactly that mean that I am reluctant to be too dismissive of Ten Hag’s side. Saudi Arabia FC, meanwhile, are seven off the top and are therefore probably not likely to be part of the conversation, but they dismissed Chelsea with ease over the weekend and their team has been decimated with injury. On the one hand that is good news, but on the other it means they’ve got plenty of players to come back into the fray and give them a boost through the winter period.

It’s Likely to be a 3 Horse Race

Whilst it does look as though any number of teams could yet be involved in a title race, the reality is that it is likely to come down to us, Arsenal and 115 Charges FC. I have to confess, having thought Arsenal have been pretty average this season, I was surprised to see them top in the wake of their win over Brentford. I admit that that probably says more about me and where I think the Gunners are in general than anything else, but there is no denying that they are likely to be part of the title conversation. Their win over Pep Guardiola’s side earlier in the campaign means that they have to be taken seriously, but the fact that they only managed narrow wins over Nottingham Forest, Crystal Palace and Everton combined with draws with Fulham, Tottenham and Chelsea means that they still have a long way to go if they want to be champions again. Mainly I just don’t think I rate Mikel Arteta all that highly, however unfair that might be on my behalf. I’m not sure he’s at the level of Jürgen Klopp or Guardiola just yet.

In the end, I think it’s likely to end up as a Liverpool and City 1 2 at the top of the Premier League table. Maybe I’ll be made to look stupid at the end of the season and it does look as though the loss of our goalkeeper for the next month or two is going to cause us trouble, to say nothing of Mo Salah disappearing off to the African Cup of Nations for a few weeks, but I think the side that Jürgen Klopp has built is more than capable of coping. The title race might well prove to be quite an exciting one as long as we can remain in the conversation for it, with the ‘third time’s a charm’ to playing Wolves on the last day of the season when going for the title against 115 Charges FC something we should all be hoping for. Sides like Aston Villa, Manchester United and Newcastle United might not be likely to be part of the actual title race themselves, but they could still be teams that get to define its outcome before the season is over.

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