Manchester City have been enjoying a great Premier league campaign to date this season, with the reigning champions claiming 23 wins and scoring an impressive 72 goals in the process.
Despite this, they find themselves behind title challengers Liverpool by two points following the Anfield club’s comprehensive 4-0 victory over rivals Manchester United. City do have a game in hand however, as they take on Brighton at the Etihad Stadium this evening.
Should they win, City will reclaim top spot by just one point, demonstrating just how tight the Premier League title race is this season. But what has caused the race to be just so close this campaign? There is one fact that is fairly odd that provides the answer.
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Of City’s 31 league games this season, they have failed to win eight of them, succumbing to five draws and three losses. What makes this statistic all the more unique is that all eight negative results came against the same four teams.
A pair of losses against Tottenham Hotspur, two draws versus Liverpool, stalemates against Southampton and a loss coupled with a draw when facing Crystal Palace have all prevented City from running away from their competition in the league as they did in 2018 and 2021.
It is worth assessing why these teams in particular have caused Pep Guardiola’s side such severe problems in their clashes this season both home and away, compared to the other teams in the league.
In the case of Tottenham and Southampton, both teams set up very defensively in the four fixtures against City, managing to stifle Guardiola’s attack. This led to City only being able to muster three goals in over 360 minutes against them.
In the former’s case, the results turned from potential draws to damaging losses as Spurs were able to exploit counter-attacks with devastating pace from South Korean star Heung-min Son after City had committed too many players forward.
With to Crystal Palace, there are many reasons why neither game against the Eagles ended anywhere near City’s expectations or hopes. Palace stood strong defensively in both games, while also coming out and attacking City often — unlike most teams that play the Premier League champions, providing Guardiola with a unique tactical headache.
In the home fixture, played in October, City saw a first half red card for Aymeric Laporte ruining any chance of getting back into the game following Wilfried Zaha’s opener, succumbing to a damaging 2-0 defeat.
It was a different story at Selhurst Park when City had multiple chances to win the game but, due to poor finishing from both Bernardo Silva and Riyad Mahrez, they were unable to find the breakthrough, resulting in a 0-0.
Probably the least surprising inclusion on this list of bogey teams is Liverpool. The Reds are City’s closest challengers for the Premier League crown and therefore it is hardly shocking that games against Jurgen Klopp’s side have been close and point-dropping.
With both sides keen not to give the other an advantage in the race for the title, the games at Anfield and the Etihad have been both open and cagey in equal measure, leading to two highly-entertaining 2-2 draws.
Having such bogey teams represents an alarming and unique statistic but with City needing to claim as many wins as possible in their remaining seven fixtures, it may provide some solace to fans, who know their side will not have to face any of these teams in the end stretch.
City start this concluding run of matches with the visit of Brighton to the Etihad Stadium tonight, which is due to kick off at 8pm.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.