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Premier League: Manchester City, Liverpool lay down two distinctly different yet effective frameworks for other clubs to follow

“Blessed be the ones who sweetened my argument.” - Leonard Cohen.

The conclusion of the 2018-2019 Premier League season is upon it. Let us take a couple of steps backs mentally. Follow the two distinct narrative threads, red and sky blue, to their respective yarns.

 Premier League: Manchester City, Liverpool lay down two distinctly different yet effective frameworks for other clubs to follow

File image of Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola. Reuters

For Manchester City defending their label as the champions has been mostly about bragging rights, and an exercise, no, an exhibition of their exorbitant talents. It’s like seeing how 2018, 2017, 2015 champions Golden State Warriors are conflagrating the competition over at the NBA. A roster that includes Draymond Green, Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, like Manchester City, is a super-team, under the reins of a world-class coach, Steve Kerr. This imperious quality has made them an unbearable watch for their rivals as they are a symbol of everything they can be. When at times this season, Pep Guardiola's scalpel-like tactics dissected their opponents, it was both equally an interactive anatomical workshop, and a one-sided lecture addressing the opponent’s drawbacks.

To call City a product of their own expectations would be appropriate. Off the field, their slabs of cash slapped Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations squarely, like the infamous Batman-slapping-Robin memes made famous on 4chan and Twitter. Stating this truth, however, should not take anything away from the fact that they are rightfully favourites to defend their title.

Corruption, extortion and cutting corners are cornerstones of modern football, and to single City out would only address the symptoms. Mythology has taught us that cutting one of the heads of the Hydra is useless. A denial of this self-same fact would contribute to an unhealthy self-delusion of what the sport is destined to become – especially with the plans of the European Super League being fast-tracked – UEFA blueprints for an invite-only Champions League tournament favoring wealthy elite clubs were leaked last night by Tariq Panja of The New York Times. A crime that benefits both the criminal and the judge, ends up being an unspoken policy. The complicity is beneficial.

This, however, adds gloss to Liverpool’s title challenge. Unlike City, Liverpool had to sell to buy. The sale of Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona, which should have been a body blow to their ambitions, instead was akin to the news of French Guiana striking new offshore petroleum reserves, placed smelling salts under the nostrils of a sleeping giant. Systematic scouting and recruitment drive led by Liverpool’s transfer guru Michael Edwards maximised the benefits of the windfall.

Professional data analyst, Dan Kennett has the numbers. Under Michael Edwards’ stewardship as Technical Director (2015-17) and Director of Football (2017-current), Liverpool have sold the following players: Fabio Borini (£10m), Sergi Canos (£4.5m), Martin Skrtel (£5.5m), Jordon Ibe (£15m), Joe Allen (£13m), Ben Smith (£6m), Chris Benteke (£32m), Luis Alberto (£6m), Tiago Ilori (£3.75m), Andre Wisdom (£4m), Lucas Leiva (£5m), Kevin Stewart (£8m), Mamadou Sakho (£26m), Phil Coutinho (£142m), Cameron Brannagan (£0.2m), Danny Ward (£12m), Danny Ings (£20m), Ragnar Klavan (£2m) Dominic Solanke (£19m).

The un-nuanced rhetoric that rival fans have against Liverpool, the one where they level accusations of Liverpool being moneybags, can be deconstructed by the simple labour of arithmetics. Virgil van Dijk, Georginio Wijnaldum, Allison, Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, Fabinho, are byproducts. And the success of the season you see in front of you is the result of careful investment attuned to the frequency of the belief in development. Joel Matip, the man who kept Edinson Cavani, Robert Lewandowski, and Luis Suarez on a tight leash, may go down as Liverpool’s best ever free-transfer. And every time Andy Robertson runs down the left-wing, to either provide an inch-perfect cross or make a playmaker seem pedestrian, the team’s trust in due process, patience and meritocracy gets underlined.

Would it take it too far to suggest that it was almost like the football gods put the street-wiseness of Liverpool on the scale to balance out the bourgeoisie City? It would be fair, at least footballing-wise to suggest that the presence of Liverpool has pushed Manchester City to the very limits of their methods and vice versa.

As a result, we, as football fans are blessed, either way, as Liverpool and Manchester City sweeten each other’s arguments of the right way to win at football. And when bells tolls on the final day of the Premier League season, and the denouement is due, rivals and media will be using one of those arguments to crucify the ones who didn’t win. Don’t be one of those people. Neither are wrong, they simply are. Let’s be self-conscious enough to be content in witnessing two of the best teams in the Premier League era fighting it to the finish. These two teams are laying down two distinctly different but effective frameworks for other clubs to follow. Bless up.

Elsewhere in the Premier League…

Arsenal will be travelling away to Burnley on the back of their Europa League qualification. Sean Dyche, the Ginger Mourinho, and his team thrive on such occasions. Expect it to be a tight, frustrating match to watch if you’re an Arsenal fan.

Similarly, Chelsea will be hosted by usual giant-killers Leicester City. After getting so close to nullifying Manchester City last week, former Chelsea coach and current Leicester manager, Brendan Rodgers should have a good measure of Sarri’s men.

Liverpool will be hoping that Brighton could hold Manchester City to a draw at the very least. Nuno Espírito Santo, the man in charge of Liverpool’s opponents, Wolves, has made the team in his own fearless, expansive image, and is expected to provide more of a challenge than what Brighton provides Manchester City. But we’ll have to factor in the power of Anfield.

Manchester United are entertaining Cardiff City at Old Trafford and would hope they don’t end up entertaining them too much.

Tottenham vs Everton should be a goal-fest, I hope. Champions League finalists, Tottenham have to make sure they automatically qualify for next season by securing a third spot in the league, irrespective of the result vs Liverpool in the final.

As things stand, Liverpool have 94 points vs Manchester City’s 95. Third-placed Chelsea are on 71 and Tottenham on 70.

In the year 2019, when we were witness to the plot twists of Avengers: Endgame, the soap opera of football looks well poised to outdo it.

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Updated Date: May 11, 2019 14:23:07 IST