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5 reasons why the Premier League is Manchester City's to lose from here

Pep Guardiola stated that less running is part of the reason why his side have been performing better over recent weeks
Pep Guardiola stated that less running is part of the reason why his side have been performing better over recent weeks

Today is Pep Guardiola’s 50th Birthday and it should be all smiles for the Manchester City manager after his side’s 4-0 demolition of Crystal Palace on Sunday evening. The Eagles didn’t lay a glove on City and after a run of nine games unbeaten and five consecutive wins, Pep’s side are 4/7 favourites to claim their fifth Premier League title this term. 

Liverpool and Manchester United played out a rather disappointing 0-0 draw at Anfield yesterday and Jurgen Klopp’s side have now drifted to 7/2 in the Premier League winner market, the biggest price they have been all season. Manchester United are the only other team priced at shorter than 20/1 in the betting, with the Red Devils given an implied 12.5% chance of lifting the trophy, with odds of 7/1. Our man @AnthonyEadson has looked at five reasons why the title is City’s to lose from here.

Kevin De Bruyne’s creativity

Belgian artist Kevin De Bruyne is now in the top 10 players for all-time Premier League assists. His perfect cross for John Stones in City’s opener against Palace was in fact De Bruyne’s 100th assist for the club since joining from Wolfsburg for a fee of £55 million. The technique involved in the assist for Stones’ goal at the Etihad on Sunday, gave us all a timely reminder of just how good he is. Both defenders in front of De Bruyne were positioned perfectly to block the cross, however the unpredictability and skill involved in putting the ball on a sixpence for Stones with the outside of his right boot was truly remarkable.

This season the 29-year-old has already recorded 10 assists and it would not be a surprise to see him go on and rival last season’s remarkable tally of 20, which equalled Thierry Henry’s record of the most in a single season. Since 2015, in all competitions De Bruyne has 32 more assists than any other Premier League player. Having a look at the expected assists (xA) metric for players this season and it is again De Bruyne who comes out top of any player in the division, amassing 6.5 in total. 

In my opinion, last season’s PFA Player of the Year is still the most talented individual in the league this term and his qualities are unrivalled. We are now seeing him step up and become the leader in this side after others have done before him such as Vincent Kompany and David Silva, with De Bruyne set to lead the Cityzens to their fifth Premier League title.

Solid Stones and a watertight defence 

In Manchester City’s last 15 games in all competitions they have scored 32 goals and conceded just three. That’s 12 clean sheets in that period, with the influence of John Stones and Ruben Dias paramount to that defensive stability.

In the Premier League this season City have won just two of eight games when John Stones has not started. Compare that to when he has and City have won eight out of nine. Pep Guardiola’s team have won all-but one game John Stones has played in across all competitions this season. They have only conceded two goals with him on the pitch in 16 matches this term, and his pairing with Ruben Dias looks like a match made in heaven right now.

Dias has been another standout performer for the four-time Premier League Champions this season, with Joao Cancelo also performing to a high standard at right-back. One of the manager’s favourites, Rodri looks to be more settled in his role in the middle of the park and at the age of 35 Fernandinho has proved he can still put in world class displays when called upon. Pep’s defence has been superb over recent weeks and based on recent performances, it’s hard to see many sides troubling them in the second half of the season.

 

No Premier League player has recorded more assists in all competitions since 2015 than Kevin De Bruyne
No Premier League player has recorded more assists in all competitions since 2015 than Kevin De Bruyne
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Less Running 

After putting in one of their best performances of the season with a 3-1 victory away at Stamford Bridge, Pep Guardiola revealed that he believes the secret to his side's recent surge in form is running less. Whereas you may normally expect a manager to be asking his players to put more effort and more running, the Manchester City boss may be going against the grain in this most unprecedented season. 

City are unbeaten since tasting defeat to Spurs at the end of November and when asked about what has changed, Pep responded:

“The only difference is that we run less. We were playing running too much, with football you have to walk - or run much less, without the ball you have to run. But with the ball you stay more in position and let the ball run, not you. That’s what’s improved these games.” 

This season we are seeing fixture congestion like never before, and injuries and fatigue could become an even bigger factor in the second half of the season. With Pep Guardiola actively telling his players to do less running, this could be an incredibly shrewd move in terms of navigating his way towards another league title.

Rivals

As mentioned earlier, we have just two other teams besides Manchester City who are priced at shorter than 20/1 in the winner betting in Liverpool at 7/2 and Manchester United at 7/1. I’ll start with Liverpool and why I don’t think they will win it this year, and put simply, it’s because they are a staggering 18 points worse off than they were at this point last season. 

After 18 games in the 2019/2020 season Liverpool had amassed an impressive 52 points. After 18 games this campaign, Klopp’s side have just 34. Manchester City actually have three points less than what they did at this stage last term, but win their game in hand against Aston Villa on Wednesday and those tallies will be level. It could be argued that several of the top teams have underperformed this season, but the drastic change in Liverpool’s points tally brings cause for concern when looking ahead for the second half of the campaign.

Manchester United have a +12 difference to their points total after 18 games this season compared to last. Much of that has been down to the influence and impact of Bruno Fernandes who has been a real boost for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. United’s issue however seems to be against the bigger clubs. They have not beaten any of the so called ‘big-six’ this season in five attempts and their inability to overcome sides around them may hinder their chances of claiming their first title since the reign of Sir Alex Ferguson. 

xG difference 

The way we analyse football is forever changing and xG (expected goals) is making its way into the mainstream through our televisions and Twitter timelines. Expected goals measure the quality of chances produced by a team or player, based on several variables such as area on the pitch and difficulty of shot. 

This season Manchester City only rank third for total xG in the league, however if we look at xGD (expected goal difference) they rank top. Expected goals difference is just simply a side’s expected goals total (xG), minus their expected goals against (xGA). With a xGD of +18.1 this season, we can see just how tight City have kept it at the back and how their defensive solidity is stopping teams from accumulating good chances when playing against them.

At 4/7, Manchester City are not the most attractive betting proposition you are likely to see this season for the casual punter, although I’d be reluctant to put my money anywhere else. We forget that Pep Guardiola managed 198 points in two seasons before last year’s untimely pandemic and with the form they are showing at the moment it’s hard to argue against them. 

City have no doubt been helped by the underperformance of some of their rivals, while Liverpool are missing the colossal presence of Virgil Van Dijk. Jose Mourinho does not possess the quality his squad did in 2005 to win the league in the same manner and with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer currently unable to beat the top sides in the league, all things point to a Pep masterclass in the second half of the campaign. 

Manchester City
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Odds correct as of 2021-03-08 17:30 Odds subject to change.

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