Manchester City And Liverpool Are Inseparable Once Again
2:08 PM EDT on March 17, 2022
As 2021 gave way to 2022, the Premier League title race appeared to be already wrapped up. On January 1, Manchester City beat Arsenal, 2–1. The next day, Liverpool drew 2–2 in a wild match with then-second place Chelsea. Those results gave City a 10 point lead over Chelsea, and an 11 point lead over Liverpool, though the Reds had a game in hand. City is built to dominate domestic league play; losing a double-digit lead in the second half of the season did not seem at all likely.
Fast forward a couple of months, though, and the title race is back on. Thanks to a combination of Liverpool's current run of perfection—it has won every single Premier League game since that January 2 draw—and some unfortunate slips from City, the gap has been whittled down to just a single point. With each club having nine matches to go, including a head-to-head showdown on April 10 in Manchester, the 2021–22 season could be as tight as the legendary 2018–19 season.
This most recent matchweek was particularly informative on how the title race got to this point. On Monday, City traveled to South London to seek revenge against Crystal Palace for the Eagles' 2–0 win in Manchester back in October. As is often the case, City dominated every aspect of Monday's game, holding Palace to just 26 percent possession and one shot on target. As is also somewhat common, City struggled to score a goal of its own, though, and Palace was able to hold onto a very uncomfortable 0–0 draw.
Meanwhile, Liverpool had a much harder challenge on Wednesday, also in London. The Reds traveled to the north side of the capital for a top-four clash against the ascendant Arsenal. The first half passed without much incident, as neither club found much control of the match. The start of the second half was more of the same, until the Liverpool machine kicked into overdrive, and Arsenal couldn't really handle it in two key moments.
First, Thiago did what Thiago was brought to Merseyside to do. After a slow kick-around with the back of Liverpool's defense, the Spaniard found himself with enough space to thread a gorgeous through ball to Diogo Jota, who took what looked like a bad angle towards the touchline but still managed to blast in a near post shot for a 1-0 lead.
If passing created Liverpool's first, then pressing created the second. Andy Robertson created just enough pressure on Bukayo Saka in a dangerous sideline position, and promptly recovered the bouncing ball. Liverpool's left back slotted a low cross into a very well covered Roberto Firmino, who cheekily tapped the ball in from an impossible angle:
This is how Liverpool has roared back into the title race. The club weathered Sadio Mané's and Mohamed Salah's absences during the pair's run to the African Cup of Nations final, and now at full strength again, the league's best attack shows little sign of slowing. On the other side, the defense is still as strong as ever, with Virgil van Dijk back in world-beating form alongside the rotating pair of Ibrahima Konaté and Joël Matip.
The Premier League's top two teams are both among the best in the world, and both have made the Champions League quarterfinals with relative ease. The next couple of months will be a game of chicken: whoever blinks first will likely lose the league title. And on that match April 10 match, the two will be heading straight toward one another.
If Liverpool maintains its 2022 form, it would be hard to bet against the Pool Boys lifting their second trophy in three years. However, counting out a Manchester City side that already built a double-digit gap once this season would be unwise, despite its recent struggles. This is still a side with few weaknesses, after all. One thing's for sure: these two clubs are as evenly matched as they were three seasons ago, when a few millimeters and an unlikely Vincent Kompany laser were the only things separating them. If the Premier League comes down to those fine margins once again, it'll be all the more exciting for how unlikely it seemed just two months ago.