Can Manchester City Catch Liverpool and Win The Premier League? Analytics and Oddsmakers Give Them a 1-in-5 Shot

Written By Peter Taberner on December 6, 2019 - Last Updated on December 10, 2019

Is it already over?

Heading into matchday 16, Manchester City will now have to claw back an 11-point deficit if they are to win a hat-trick of league titles. It’s a tall order when you are chasing Jurgen Klopp’s currently dominant Liverpool side.

City’s impressive 4-1 destruction of Burnley at Turf Moor was quickly swatted aside by Liverpool’s 5-2 thrashing of neighbours Everton at Anfield.

In a Merseyside derby, Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino and Jordan Henderson were left out. In addition to injuries and suspension to Fabinho and Alisson respectively, the Reds still ran out emphatic winners. You would be forgiven for thinking that Klopp currently possesses a Midas touch.

CITY DEFENSIVE WOES HARM TITLE CHASE

The root cause of why City find themselves trailing is that defensively they have looked far more vulnerable than in their previous two title winning seasons.

So far they have conceded 17 goals in 15 matches, compared to 23 for the whole of last season. It’s a statistic that has contributed to there being a different feel about Pep Guardiola’s team.

In contrast, City have scored 43 times at 2.87 goals per game. Throughout last season, they hit the back of the net 95 times at a rate of 2.50 goals per match. This season’s strike rate is even higher than the prolific 2017/18 season, where City notched up 106 goals, at 2.79 goals per contest.

KOMPANY EXIT AND INJURIES HALT CITY

Defensively, City have suffered following the loss of their talismanic former captain Vincent Kompany.

The 33-year-old Belgian had multiple injury issues for the last few seasons in England. Yet he showed last season that he remained a figure of steel in the back four.

City won their last 14 matches, and Kompany often marshaled the defence to those victories to seal the title. Overall the champions kept 10 clean sheets during that run, including crucial 1-0 wins against Tottenham, Burnley and Leicester in April and early May.

It’s difficult to see City repeating a similar run, as they have been so porous at the back.

This makes it even harder to envisage that they can chip away at Liverpool’s advantage in the title race.

Injuries and poor form has also played a major part of why City look comparatively weak. John Stones was out earlier this season for several weeks with a muscular injury, but his regression at the Etihad continues. Its hard to make a case that the England international would claim a place in any other top six team.

Nicolas Otamendi has also been in poor form. However, he did return to the starting line up in the win at Burnley. Fernandinho has been converted to playing as a centre-half, and at times like in the 2-1 win against Chelsea has produced commanding performances. Yet in last month’s defeat against Liverpool, he looked like he was a central midfielder playing in the back four.

The failure to replace Kompany in the summer appears to have cost City badly.

And the noises that Guardiola has made so far indicates that he seems unwilling to get the chequebook out in January. The Spaniard is happy to persevere with Fernandinho playing in an unfamiliar role.

Rodri was brought in the summer to be the Brazilian’s long-term replacement. He came with the reputation of being a good tackler, as well as possessing a good positional sense. So far its been a satisfactory start in how he protects the back four.

But City look vulnerable when players are running at them, and not just in and around the box, but also from deeper positions where Rodri patrols.

Perhaps a change in formation and playing two defensive midfielders, and releasing Kevin De Bruyne in a number ten role, would be a way forward.

FIXTURES HAND LIVERPOOL A FURTHER ADVANTAGE

It could be a bleak midwinter for City over the Christmas and New Year period. The tea time Manchester derby is the beginning of a run of difficult games ahead.

City play Arsenal away next week, who may be in free-fall but could use a game against the champions as a launch pad back to some kind of form. High-flying Leicester are next at the Etihad in the weekend before Christmas. Then comes a trip to Molineux to face in-form Wolves on December 27th to complete a tricky run of fixtures.

In the second half of the season, City face difficult away trips. First, they’re off to a resurgent Tottenham and Leicester. In addition, the return fixture against Manchester United is at Old Trafford in March. The champions will also face a tough trip to Chelsea also in March.

The first weekend in April sees the visit of Liverpool, in what still could turn out to be a huge game in deciding the outcome of the title race.

Yet its hard to foresee any other circumstance than City having to win that game to stand any chance of reclaiming the Premier League crown.

For Liverpool, they also have to go to the new White Hart Lane to play Tottenham. Additionally, they have a trip to their north London rivals Arsenal. A trip across Stanley Park to meet Everton at Goodison Park is penciled in for March 14th.

However, Manchester United, Chelsea and Leicester will all come to Anfield next year.

Overall, Liverpool have the easier second half to the season.

FOOTBALL ANALYSTS AND ODDSMAKERS PREDICT LIVERPOOL TITLE

Infogol, a football analytics outlet, have predicted since October that Liverpool would win their first title in 30 years. It has come to that conclusion by using its expected goals model.

The methodology is to quantify the quality of any scoring opportunity and assessing the probability of a goal scoring chance being converted.

A review of individual games, hands the system an insight to future performances and results. For example, penalties are converted 78% of the time. Other factors might include shot location or the type of shot, or even if a goal scoring chance arrived from a fast or slower break.

At the beginning of the season, Infogol found that Manchester City were the favourites to win the title. After their 5-0 win at West Ham on the opening weekend of the season, City were rated by the system of having an 83% chance of becoming champions again.

Due to City’s uncertain start to the season, including a 3-2 defeat to newly promoted Norwich, their chances plummeted to below 50% after the eighth match of the season. Gradually Liverpool overtook them as favourites, at the same time after the eighth game.

After this week’s results, Infogol have said that Liverpool’s title winning chances are now rated at 74%.

Additionally, 538 has Liverpool at only 70% to win the EPL. City are listed still winning it around 1-in-4 times in simulations.

In betting markets, the same implied odds are more or less reflected. Most sportsbooks have Liverpool priced between -350 to -550.

TITLE COLLAPSES HAND CITY HOPE

All might not be lost for Pep Guardiola’s men, as there have been many commanding leads whittled away leading to title collapses.

Let’s not forget that Liverpool were seven points cleat at the top on New Year’s Day this year. Also, they have been guilty of throwing away leads several times since their last league title in 1990.

In the following season from that triumph, the Merseysiders won 12 of their first 13 matches. Yet Arsenal never stopped chasing them and beat the leaders 3-0 at Highbury. Liverpool only won eight matches from New Year’s Day, amid the shock resignation of Kenny Dalglish, and were deposed at Champions.

In the 2013/14 season, Liverpool needed just seven points from their final three matches to win the title, but it all slipped away. Steven Gerrard’s infamous loss of balance against Chelsea at Anfield,allowed Demba Ba to open the scoring, as The Blues ran out 2-0 winners. Days later Liverpool threw away a three goal lead at Crystal Palace, to only draw the game.

Ironically it was Manchester City who then sealed the title on the last day of the season.

Manchester United started the 1986/87 campaign in stunning form winning their first ten games. It looked like Ron Atkinson’s team were finally going to end the club’s then 19 year title drought. A defeat against Sheffield Wednesday in November ended United’s unbeaten run, and began a gradual decline. Bryan Robson again became injured at a crucial time with a dislocated shoulder. Mark Hughes started talking to Barcelona. He eventually he moved to the Nou Camp at the end of that season.

United meekly surrendered their title challenge, and in the end lost ten matches overall and finished in fourth. Inevitably arch rivals Liverpool preyed on United’s weakness and won their 16th title, pipping neighbours Everton to the post.

Ten years later Kevin Keegan’s freewheeling Newcastle United, were 15 points clear with 12 games remaining. The Magpies were set to win their first league title since 1927. Yet the roof caved in as the finishing line approached, losing five out of eight Premier League games between February and April.

Crucially, Newcastle lost 1-0 at home to nearest challengers Manchester United in March, despite peppering Peter Schmeichel’s goal. The Dane produced an outstanding goalkeeping performance. After that came a classic 4-3 defeat against Liverpool, where Stan Collymore’s last gasp finish left Keegan’s head bowed on the touchline.

Manchester United eventually won the title on the final day of the season away at Middlesbrough.

 

 

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