Liverpool beat Manchester City on Monday morning to pull away eight points clear at the top of the Premier League table after 12 points. An unassailable lead, even this early in the season, some pundits are saying.
“They’re [Liverpool] in great form. I’m not a betting man, but I think it’s done,” former Manchester United captain Roy Keane said following the win. “If you’re in the Liverpool dressing room you’ll be thinking bring it on.”
Jose Mourinho agrees.
“From my position I think it’s done,” he added. “Unless something dramatic happens in terms of an injury that breaks the team, but I think the team is a complete puzzle. It’s adapted to the quality of the players.
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“City are capable of winning seven, eight, nine matches in a row, but I don’t see how Liverpool can lose their advantage over them.”
Having now played every member of the traditional top six and beaten them (except for Manchester United, who held them to a draw), as well as every team currently in the top six, it is firmly Liverpool’s to lose.
After 12 games, however, you don’t have to go back too far through the Premier League archives to find another team with a lead of eight points.
Manchester City found themselves with the same comfortable advantage two years ago when Pep Guardiola’s team blew away the rest of the competition in the most dominant title win in Premier League history.
They famously score in injury time on the final day of the season to see themselves become the first team to amass 100 points in the league, losing just the once and finishing a huge 19 points ahead of eventual runners up Manchester United.
To find an advantage more significant than this at this point in the season however, you have to go back to the 1993/94 season, when there were 22 teams in the Premier League and each team therefore played 42 times.
Manchester United held a nine-point lead after 12 games (in what was only the second season of the Premier League) and went on to lift the trophy by eight points.
At this stage of the campaign, the average lead at the top of the table across all 27 and a third (nearly) seasons is just 3.3 points – less than half of Liverpool’s current advantage.
Interestingly however, only 12 of the teams leading the table after 12 games have actually gone on to be in the same position at the end of the season – four of those occasions have come in the last five seasons.
Liverpool themselves know all about that, having led at this point twice before, in 01/02 and 02/03 by three and four points respectively. Arsenal and Manchester United ended up winning the title by seven and five points come the end of those two seasons.
Eight points is significant, even at this stage, but leads like this and even greater have been lost before, and far later in the season as well.
Manchester United, for example, blew their eight-point lead over Manchester City in the 2011/12 season, with Sergio Aguero famously writing his name into Premier League history in the 94th minute of the final game of campaign.
But for now, Liverpool are sitting pretty.
Between now and Christmas, Liverpool won’t face another member of the top six – traditional or current – with four of their next five games against teams in the bottom half of the table.
Their next major challenge comes away to high-flying Leicester City on December 27, to kick off a run of three games in seven days.
But by that point Liverpool could conceivably be arriving at the King Power Stadium on the back of winning 25 of their last 26 Premier League games and on a run of 34 games unbeaten domestically.
And there is every chance the eight point lead would have grown significantly by then, too.