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The Premier League Is COMPETITIVE This Year

6 minute read Published December 19, 2023

It really looks like this won’t be a 90 point season for any team. Instead, it’s a very fierce race at the top where all teams can drop points against pretty much any opponent. Only one point separates the top three and at least five teams look like they’re in it to win it at the moment.

After a stellar start to the season Tottenham have been dropping off the pace a little bit as it’s become very apparent that Spurs are lacking in depth. Without Maddison they’re lacking creativity in the attacking third and without Van de Ven, Dier and Romero at the back they’re now playing a back four consisting only of full backs. 

I love how Emery came to Aston Villa not just to compete for the European spots but to really go for it and win it all. Despite missing both Mings and Buendia since the start of the season they’re playing some good, entertaining football. Remains to see how they’ll fare without Kamara, Douglas Luiz and Digne in the next game, who are all missing for disciplinary reasons. In 2023, Aston Villa is the second best team in the Premier League, only trailing City.

Annual table, 2023

Team W D L Pts
Manchester City 27 6 6 87
Aston Villa 25 6 8 81
Arsenal 24 8 7 80
Liverpool 22 11 6 77

What’s happened to Manchester City?

But what we’re all wondering is, what’s happened to Manchester City? Has winning the treble last season really demotivated the players to the degree where they’re just not trying that hard any more? And why do players want to leave the best coach and team in the game?

Throughout his career Pep has led his teams to two trebles, the Barcelona treble in 2008/09 and last year with Manchester City. Additionally, he led Bayern Munich the season after they won the treble with Jupp Heynckes in 2012/13.

In both seasons where he led a team that won the treble the season before, the teams went on to have great successes, even if neither repeated the treble. Both Barcelona and Bayern Munich went on to win four titles the following season and they both made it all the way to the Champions League semi-finals. 

Historically therefore, there’s nothing that indicates that Guardiola teams specifically experience a slump in motivation after winning a treble. What is different this time is that 09/10 was only his second season at Barcelona and 13/14 was his first at Munich. Many players at Manchester City have been with the team and Guardiola for four, five or even six seasons.

And maybe that’s the reason players want to leave. While they were winning the league and domestic cups consistently, there was always that last trophy still to chase.

During those seasons they’ve won so, so much. Five wins in the seven seasons Pep’s been at the club. So, while the treble might not always lead to a demotivated team the following season, winning the league for a third time in a row and the fifth time in six seasons - that just might do the trick.

To be fair, Manchester City have been missing arguably the best player in the Premier League, De Bruyne, practically all season. Rodri has missed a lot of games through injury. This weekend they were also missing Haaland and Doku. Pictures came out yesterday of De Bruyne being back in first team training, it’s possible all three are back before New Years Eve.

Gundogan has been a big miss. After he left for Barcelona Manchester City brought in Nunes and Kovacic to fill the gap but have been unable to fill his shoes. The need for someone to progress the ball between defence and attack is very apparent. 

Here’s the thing about Manchester City though. They are incredible in the second half of the season. Guardiola figures out what’s missing or needs to change in the first half of the season and come January - they’re flying. They’ll also have Haaland, Doku and De Bruyne back.

They’re 5 points off where they were at this point last season. But all the teams have dropped points. Arsenal led the league, two points ahead of City, at 43 points. 

Matchday 17, 2022

Team W D L Pts
Arsenal 14 1 2 43
Manchester City 13 2 2 41
Newcastle 10 6 1 36
Manchester United 9 4 4 31

Matchday 17, 2023

Team W D L Pts
Arsenal 12 3 2 39
Liverpool 11 5 1 38
Aston Villa 12 2 3 38
Manchester City 10 4 3 34

Is it time for a new champion?

Liverpool are getting the points but if you watch them play, it doesn’t look that convincing. It was especially apparent in this weekend's game against Manchester United, where they were unable to penetrate the low block United played all game. And a lot of teams play low block against Liverpool, that’s definitely something they need to figure out.

A few players had really awful games. Szoboszlai really struggled when United crowded the midfield. Endo didn’t look like he belonged at this level at all. Salah had an uncharacteristically quiet game and Gakpo was unable to match even a slight of the performance he put in last time these teams played at Anfield.

That United game on Sunday was a painful watch. So boring. But it also closed out yet another gameday where we have a new leader of the Premier League, and a new team in second as well. The top teams are dropping points every week.

What about Arsenal then? They’re once again top of the table at Christmas but with the wild swings at the top of the table, that might very well change by the end of this week. Although still a young squad, they all have another season’s experience and surely they’ll want to avoid a repeat of last years disaster.

The Gunners have also added some quality to their midfield and have looked very solid especially defensively. Rice takes a lot of responsibility at the back. After a tough start, Havertz is also starting to produce points. 

It’s so tight though. Last season Arsenal and City were really the only two teams competing for the title. So far this year, Liverpool and Aston Villa are just a point behind. Manchester City are five behind. It’s really shaping up for an exciting second half of the season.

Mourinho thinks it’ll be Manchester City or Liverpool. Arsenal? “Nah”.

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