After 16 games in the 2020/21 Premier League season, just 7 points separate the top nine teams in the table compared to 24 points at this stage last season. Liverpool and Manchester City have struggled to assert their well-known dominance while the likes of Aston Villa, Southampton and Manchester United are way above expectations. As we approach the midway point of the season, we are no closer to knowing who will be the winners of the 29th edition of the English Premier League. This article will look at the main contenders, important factors to consider, and what to expect come the end of the season.
When looking at the main contenders for the league this season, it’s hard to look past Liverpool and Manchester City. Their dominance over the past three seasons has been staggering. Between them, they’ve won all three Premier League titles, one Champions League, a Club World Cup, a Super Cup, three Carabao Cups and an FA Cup as well as a combined 550 league points. However, the early stages of this season saw the likes of Chelsea, Leicester, Everton, Aston Villa and Tottenham all breaking up their party at the top of the table. While Liverpool currently sit first, two consecutive draws now mean that Manchester United can go level on points with them should they beat Aston Villa. Are we in for a surprise or will Liverpool and Manchester City reassert their dominance?
Well that’s difficult to say, mainly because this Premier League season is like no other given the threat of Covid-19 which has and will continue to impact the league in numerous ways. Liverpool learnt this the hard way early in the season when positive tests ruled out Sadio Mane and Thiago Alcantara for their infamous trip to Aston Villa which resulted in a 7-2 defeat. More recently, Manchester City had to close their training group following an outbreak among players and staff resulting in the postponement of their game against Everton. Other teams will unfortunately suffer from similar problems throughout the rest of the season but the unpredictability of Covid-19 and its persistent threat means this season has an additional factor at play.
So far, Liverpool appear to be the team that have coped best in this frantic season, but their lead at the top of the table is shrinking. On the other hand, Manchester United are enjoying a rich vein of form and riding their luck in a similar way that saw Liverpool pull clear at the top last season. They’re unbeaten in nine Premier League games and with their trip to Anfield on the 17th of January looming, they’ll be determined to end Liverpool’s 67-match home unbeaten run and go top of the table at the halfway point. While they don’t have the points on the board, Manchester City do have two games in hand, and winning both of those will see them go just one point behind Liverpool. Although, those games are no guaranteed victories. They’re against Aston Villa and Everton, two teams outperforming expectations with motivated players who have already caused a few upsets this season.
Then there are the dark horses in London. Jose Mourinho’s Spurs had a flying start to the season with Kane and Son combining brilliantly which saw them hold pole position for four rounds, but a recent drop in form has seen them drop to 7th with a game in hand following a postponed game against Fulham. Meanwhile, Frank Lampard’s Chelsea experienced a similar drop-off. While they are yet to finish a game week at the top of the table, they have been threatening. However, a failure to beat the teams at the top of the table and a humiliating defeat at the Emirates has set them back. They’ll be hoping for summer signings, Timo Werner and Kai Havertz to prove their worth after spending nearly £120m on the German pair.
Ultimately, the title race will come down to consistency and resilience. Everyone seems to be dropping points at the moment and no one has been able to capitalise on it and take advantage, a consistent run of wins for any team in the top nine could do that. Meanwhile, with everyone suffering from injuries, Covid absences and fixture congestion, the title may come down to who can be the most resilient team in the face of such adversity. January should be used as a regrouping period for all teams at the top. They all have their strengths but there are enough weaknesses for each of them to say they won’t have what it takes to be first in May, who will be able to prove that wrong?
In truth, it’s impossible to predict who will be first in May, but no doubt, we’re in for a very exciting title race. Can Liverpool overcome their injury setbacks and find a way to break down the low-blocks? Can Manchester City reinvent their attacking prowess? Can Manchester United continue this run of form right to the very end? Let us know what you think by tweeting @AllOutFootball_ using #AOF.