Man City will rise to Liverpool FC challenge and disprove ridiculous ‘bottler’ narrative – Alex Brotherton
Manchester City and Liverpool are currently playing out what could turn out to be one of the closest Premier League title races in history, yet some how what should be a thrilling celebration of football has allowed one of the most ridiculous narratives in the game to rear its head. That nonsense is bottling culture.
When compared to some of the depressing things that are happening in football and the wider world at the minute, this is really a non-issue. However, that doesn’t make it any less annoying.
City’s goalless draw with Crystal Palace on Monday evening has left their lead at the top of the table more precarious than ever. Victory for Liverpool at Arsenal on Wednesday would reduce the Blues’ advantage to a single point, with the Premier League top two set to meet on April 10th for what could be a title-deciding showdown.
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City held a 14-point lead over Jurgen Klopp’s side two months ago, giving rise to the narrative that they have ‘bottled’ the title. That is simply not true.
City’s great crime is only winning 20 of the 27 points available to them since the turn of the year. Guardiola’s side have won six of those nine matches, drawn two and lost one.
In any other scenario, that wouldn’t sound like a terrible return, would it? But considering the high standards set by themselves, and the ridiculous form Liverpool find themselves in, then no, it isn’t great.
Should Klopp’s side beat Arsenal on Wednesday, then they will have won 25 of the previous 27 points available to them. The 2019/20 champions have won their past eight league fixtures on the bounce by an aggregate score of 21-2 – an incredible run of results.
City have hardly gone into meltdown or thrown it all away; against Palace they actually played much better than in wins against Everton and Arsenal since the turn of the year, but just couldn’t convert any of their litany of chances into goals. City have endured a minor blip, but when their rivals are so good, that’s all it takes for a seemingly unassailable lead to dissolve. The 14-point lead was never really a true reflection of the standings – Liverpool had two games in hand at the time – so effectively the Reds have cut the lead down from eight.
It’s a damning indictment of the sensationalism of football discourse that arguably the two best teams in Europe are playing in this country, but popular narrative says that one cannot possibly succeed without the other capsizing. It’s an argument with little basis in reality.
The Liverpool slump that saw City establish their advantage over the festive period comprised of the results City have suffered in recent weeks. Klopp’s men drew with Tottenham and Chelsea either side of a defeat at Leicester, while City were in the middle of a 12-game winning streak.
At the time nobody lamented Liverpool for failing to win every game, or for letting City run away with the title, and the same should be the case now. City haven’t bottled the title just like Liverpool didn’t during their December ‘blip’ – both are just so good that minor dips in form get punished by the other side putting together winning streaks.
City and Liverpool are two of the best sides in the world containing some of the best players in the game coached by two elite managers. Let’s forget the ‘bottling’ narrative and enjoy (when not taking deep breathes and stress eating on match day) what could be a title tussle for the ages.
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