The “God of the Gaps” argument is a theological outlook where the gaps in scientific knowledge are evidence or proof of gods existence, physical or otherwise. On the whole, it was a criticism used by people to refine ‘God’ to only the gaps science cannot explain – it is merely a pro-science argument. This will be my philosophical analogy for two football clubs, and I promise it will make more sense as you read on.
So, what I mean to say by all this is that: ‘Liverpool and Manchester City are dead good at playing football, to what some might call a god-like level…and that’s a wrap’, but there’s clearly so much more to this than a base level statement. Both clubs have developed through hard work, attention to detail and focus.
Manchester City are lauded as the breakers of the Premier League through their vast spending, but that isn’t all they’ve done since the Abu Dhabi United Group and Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan took over in 2008. City hadn’t won a trophy in the previous 32 seasons but that was about to change considerably.
The investment in the club would see the erection of the ‘Etihad Campus’ – the bringing together of youth and experience to work under one philosophy and structure; all under one roof (so to speak). When Pep Guardiola arrived, this was an environment that could flourish under the vision and coaching prowess he possessed.
Man City has an identity now and there exists the facilitates to speed the development process along for everyone at the club.
For all the trouble that Liverpool have had in the last two decades with ownership and managerial appointments, the club has looked in fine shape, producing profit margins, healthy sponsorship deals as well now winning trophy and reaching finals.
The manager, world class that he is, hasn’t just brought stability on the pitch, but has brought it off the pitch too – a consummate human being and professional. Again, like City, there is an identity to the club now.
The fans are unified, the board is unified and the structure is unified. Nothing weakens a club more than an uncertain supporter-base, just look at Tottenham and Manchester United’s current woes; Arsenal are just coming out of the fog themselves.
All the clubs around and below these two giants are weakening themselves with issues these two clubs have seemed to have already addressed and extract from the epicentre of their respective clubs.
What the original analogy I used lends to this is simple. They are Gods of the gap because the gap between these two clubs and their opponents is wider than it ever has been. The new gap between these clubs and the rest is proof and testament that these clubs have worked hard, albeit in different ways, to create the gap – it is proof their hard work and quality exists.
Nothing like this has ever been seen in football history, and it’s all of their own making from owners to chefs and kit cleaners to analysts.
Very succinctly, it is without a doubt that Liverpool and Manchester City are the two best clubs in the United Kingdom, so it’s now a conversation of just the two. City completed the first men’s domestic treble in the 2018/19 season with yet another stunning display of class.
Since the day Guardiola lost his first preseason game to his former club Bayern Munich 1-0, City have shown nothing but resolve, quality and expertise. On the very same day, only earlier, Alberto Moreno scored a 90th penalty to give Liverpool a 2-0 victory at The John Smith’s Stadium, home to Huddersfield Town – we really have come a long way haven’t we!?
So the tides have certainly turned, but perhaps they’re turning once more. Liverpool’s start to the season and recent 2-1 victory over Leicester City leaves them 8 points clear of second placed City, who, for all intents and purposes, have been no where near their very best, even having beaten Watford 8-0 already this season.
Both teams are in tide changing form, and where “most pundits were expecting City to start closing the gap…instead…it’s getting bigger” (Gowers, 2019). What seems to be the problem? Is it a case of new territory hurting the current Champions?
As discussed above, their playing style and philosophy has always been one of absolute attacking and possession-based intent but maybe they’re just not used to teams ‘smelling blood’ (so to speak) and coming at them with such a will to win. Unlike previous years, this is happening now more than ever and it is causing the “difference in their odds to win the EPL title” (iBid. 2019) to decrease and swing in Liverpool’s favour.
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Like sharks in water, other teams are coming to City with some fight; Norwich City and Wolves being the front runners. Even the early-season Spurs side who drew 2-2.. They got the draw courtesy of what can only be described as a correct VAR decision, but Man City were wasteful even then.
Of the 30 shots City had that game, 10 were on target, resulting in a conversion rate of just 6% for the 2 goals they scored. Compare this to the Spurs side who had just 3 shots and scored 2 for a conversion rate of 66% (Whoscored.com, 2019, i).
They might have felt unlucky then, but they wouldn’t have against Norwich and Wolves. The away loss at Carrow Road showed their 25 total shots yield 2 goals, but individual errors cost them dearly, especially on the counter-attack. Focusing play 29% of the time down the left, Norwich exploited Walker’s charge forward and the caused chaos between the lines of Stones and Otamendi (Whoscored.com, 2019, ii).
They looked sheepish at Wolves recently too and lost 2-0; Wolves carved them open on several occasions, as Norwich did, and made Otamendi look poor, something he’s done well to hide in recent seasons. Wolves had 7 shots and scoring 2 compared to City’s 18 total shots and 0 goals. Their 76% possession showed that, yes they are controlling games, but their general output attacking-wise seems to falter. (Whoscored.com, 2019, iii ). So clearly it’s not only a defensive issue.
The loss of captain Vincent Kompany has its role in the defensive struggles, where a clear leader on the field and in the dressing room seems to be lacking, but with players like Aymeric Laporte and John Stones out, this team seems to have crumbled in a way not many would have predicted.
Veteran Fernandinho has had to fill in at centre back but when under pressure by pace , both him and Argentine, Nicolas Otamendi look stretched. Do City have to spend even more to fix this issue? It would seem so.
Surely a club so well run both facility and philosophy wise would have players to fill in or at least cope with the system they implement, even when under pressure these players are top quality and surely should be able to handle the strenuous nature of the Premier League.
What seems the most poignant is that, yes, if Liverpool lost Virgil Van Djik and Andrew Robertson and/or Trent Alexander-Arnold or Roberto Firmino, then maybe Liverpool would be in the same position. However, Liverpool have been without goalkeeper of the year, Alisson-Becker, who has established himself as a main part of the success and triumph of this current Liverpool team.
It is true they haven’t kept as many clean sheets, but they’ve been winning games and it as the heroics of new goalkeeper Adrian that they have to thank for their success over Chelsea in the Super Cup Final in Istanbul earlier this season.
The Spaniard has been more than adequate to fill the shoes of the injured Brazilian; the team hasn’t completely collapsed with the loss of the keeper. Somehow City seem to have fallen out of their dominant habits just slightly.
Having said that, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that City can go on a run of 10 games and not lose, but there’s also a feeling inside of me that they’ll drop more points too. I think Liverpool will as well, but who knows when that will be.
November 10th and April 4th can’t come soon enough for the neutrals – Etihad and Anfield. At these grounds, it appears titles are won and lost, but then again, maybe you also believe the same as Guardiola (cited in Perarnau 2014), that “league titles are won in the final eight games, but they are lost in the first eight games.”.
Gowers, Gary, (2019), “Liverpool Take 8-Point Lead Over Man City, Now Odds-On Favorites for EPL Title”, ‘Odds to win the English Premier League’. [Found at]: https://www.sportsbettingdime.com/news/soccer/liverpool-odds-favorite-win-2020-epl-title-championship-betting-futures/ (Accessed): Wednesday 9th October 2019
Liverpoolfc.com, (2019), “Alisson Becker crowned Best FIFA Men’s Goalkeeper”. [Found at]: https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/www.liverpoolfc.com/amp/news/first-team/365355-alisson-becker-best-fifa-mens-goalkeeper-award?client=safari (Accessed ): Wednesday 9th October 2019.
Perarnau, Martí, (2014), “Pep Confidential: The Inside Story Of Pep Guardiola’s First Season At Bayern Munich”, Chapter 28: “Hoeness is the Heart and Soul of this club – he’s vital to me”, Birlinn.
Whoscored.com, (2019), (i), Match Report: Manchester City vs. Tottenham Hotspur, England: Premier League: 2019/20. [Found at]: https://www.whoscored.com/Matches/1375942/MatchReport/England-Premier-League-2019-2020-Manchester-City-Tottenham (Accessed): Wednesday 9th October 2019.
Whoscored.com, (2019), (ii), Match Report: Norwich City vs. Manchester City, England: Premier League: 2019/20..[Found at]: https://www.whoscored.com/Matches/1375969/MatchReport/England-Premier-League-2019-2020-Norwich-Manchester-City (Accessed): Thursday 10th October 2019.
Whoscored.com, (2019), (iii), Match Report: Manchester City vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers, England: Premier League 2019/20. [Found at]: https://www.whoscored.com/Matches/1376038/MatchReport/England-Premier-League-2019-2020-Manchester-City-Wolverhampton-Wanderers (Accessed): Thursday 10th October 2019