Fun fact: the difference between fourth place and dead last is smaller than the difference between 1st and third place and is only two points larger than the difference between first and second place. Liverpool has created a gulf so big, it’s akin to playing FIFA 20 manager career mode on “Novice” level. Although the results are (generally speaking) less lopsided, the outcome is still the same: only two points dropped in 25 matches. Including the end of last season, they’ve only lost two points in the last 34 matches, and haven’t lost a league match since January 3rd, 2019. Even Arsenal’s “Invincibles” season included 12 draws and only garnered Arsenal a paltry 90 points in the campaign. Liverpool are on track to achieve 91 by March 21st, and have the potential to finish the campaign with a never-before-seen, and unlikely to be repeated 112 points, a full four wins clear of Manchester City’s record-breaking 2017-2018 campaign. While Liverpool are unlikely to break the goal-scoring record set by Manchester City that season, they will almost certainly concede fewer (although they have no chance of beating the record for fewest goals conceded in a season–15, set by Chelsea’s phenomenal defense in 2004-2005).
In other news, this week featured some fascinating matches, including one of the most entertaining and fast-paced matches I have ever had the pleasure of watching in Leicester vs. Chelsea. Manchester City once again showed that they have a penchant for losing both the match and their temper when things get chippy, dropping all three points against Tottenham, a game in which Zinchenko was sent off for a sloppy second yellow. The game arguably should have seen two red cards, as Sterling jumped into a challenge early on in the match, and was lucky to escape the VAR check with his position on the pitch (this absolutely should have been a red card – I’m not entirely sure how VAR missed the egregious nature of the tackle, but it was a horrific one – the only thing missing was a leg bone at right angles). Much to the anxiety of England fans, Sterling limped off in the 84th minute anyway, and is now listed as doubtful for the upcoming clash with Real Madrid in the Champions League, which is still a full 20 days away. He will almost certainly miss the next two league fixtures. Tottenham’s new signing Bergwijn made a strong debut, earning the game-winner against City mere minutes after Zinchenko’s dismissal. Sheffield United continued their strong run of form, moving all the way up to sixth place, thanks to the draw between Manchester United and Wolves. Everton beat Watford in a thrilling match despite being down a man, and Theo Walcott’s 90th minute goal made this easily the most entertaining match of the week, despite it featuring clubs in the bottom half. Arsenal somehow tied Burnley, making for their fourth straight draw. Despite this, Arsenal still remain at the top of a four-way tie for 10th place. At the bottom of the table, West Ham are doing their level best to claw their way out of the relegation zone, closing to within one point of 17th place Aston Villa. Let’s look at some stats:
1: Thanks to their win against Crystal Palace, Sheffield United enjoyed their first win in their last 20 Premier League fixtures in London. The Blades are unbeaten in London in Premier League encounters this season, with four draws and a win.
2: Everton won from two goals behind in an away match for their first time since 2015, when they beat Watford, ending a streak of 25 losses from that position.
19: West Ham have squandered 19 points from winning positions this season, and failed to win a Premier League match in which they led by two or more goals for the first time since 2017.
250: Steven Bergwijn became the 250th player in the Premier League to score on his debut.
Last week’s Pick ‘Em was obviously nonexistent – if anyone took my flyer on Liverpool, they beat the spread in both fixtures, something I would not have bet on. This week is odd, as there are only four matches this weekend, so my Pick ‘Em will include only these, and then I will release, on Facebook, a Pick ‘Em for the following week, which rounds out Matchweek 26 – stay tuned!
Sheffield United -.5 (-150) versus Bournemouth: United are maintaining a solid run of form by doing the simple things the right way: winning the games on paper they should (generally speaking) and drawing the games on paper that aren’t winnable. Bournemouth are the former.
Manchester City -2.5 (-125) versus West Ham: City’s defeat last week will not sit well with the defending champions. Despite not having Sterling, they will likely slaughter a hapless West Ham.