Redbrick Sport give their predictions for 2018, discussing the top four and relegation battle as well as the FA Cup and Carabao Cup.Written by Leanne Prescott, alexalton1, Harry Wilkinson & Olli Meek on 13th January 2018
City’s Christmas Cracker
Sports writer Tom Leaman looks at how being top of the Premier League table at Christmas bolsters Manchester City's probability of winning the title come the end of the season
It’s official; Manchester City will be top of the Premier League on Christmas day.
On Sunday, City won three points at Old Trafford for just the sixth time since the Premier League began. Sixteen games into the season, Pep Guardiola’s unbeaten Sky Blues sit 11 points above their cross-city rivals, with only 2 league games to play before Christmas Day. It is, therefore, certain that City will be at the top of the tree on the 25th, which is historically a milestone for any potential champions. In fact, on only one occasion in the division’s history have a side come from more than 11 points behind the league leaders at Christmas to win the title- in 1997/98, sixth-placed Arsenal closed a 13-point gap in the new year to be crowned champions at the Red Devils’ expense.
“on only one occasion in the division’s history have a side come from more than 11 points behind the league leaders at Christmas to win the title
In the first decade or so since the Premier League’s inception, being top at Christmas was considered a curse rather than a blessing. 12 sides who have topped at Christmas have gone on to lose the title, although they generally didn’t have the luxury of such a sizeable cushion at the top. 9 of these occasions were before 2004. Since 2004/05, 85% of sides top during the festivities have gone on to win the league. From then onwards, only two sides have failed to win the title after topping at Christmas- Liverpool twice and Arsenal in 2007/08. Liverpool in 2013/14 were the last side to not win the league after topping at Christmas. On that occasion, Manchester City were the side that came from third to triumph in May.
Recent seasons seem to suggest that Manchester City stand an incredibly strong chance of being top of the table come the end of the season. On the back of the Manchester derby, José Mourinho admitted "I don’t know" when asked if United still stood a chance of winning the league. It is, after all, incredibly difficult to look past this year’s Manchester City squad as probable champions. The lethal strike-force of Sergio Agüero, Gabriel Jesus, Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sané have already scored 32 league goals between them this season, and Kevin de Bruyne is arguably the best midfielder in the world right now.
Issues at the back seem to have been resolved by Guardiola, as the league leaders have conceded a joint lowest total of 11 this season. The Sky Blues have also won all four games they’ve played so far against the rest of the ‘Big Six,’ with Tottenham the biggest challenge for them to overcome before the repeat fixtures begin in 2018. Like any true champions, City can also grind out results in games they haven’t performed as well in, with a 1-2 win at Huddersfield in late November highlighting this.
“Kevin de Bruyne is arguably the best midfielder in the world right now
It is, therefore, highly unlikely that Guardiola’s side will be caught before at the end of the season- they have even been compared with Arsenal’s "Invincibles" of 2003/04, which is truly a testament to an incredibly talented squad taking the Premier League by storm.
What remains to be seen is if they can replicate their success at continental level for the first time. City will play Swiss side Basel in February and March, in what could easily be described as the most winnable tie for any of the 5 English clubs in Europe’s elite club tournament.