“Two seasons ago there was the owner of the Premier League who said that could not happen again, it’s not good for the Premier League for City to win the title in that way, with 100 points. Now it’s Liverpool, you have to be concerned if you are the owner of the Premier League.”
That’s Pep Guardiola, taking the moral high ground yesterday after his Man City side lost even further ground on Liverpool, their title escaping feebly through their hands.
His point? That the powers that be have intervened to ensure the trophy went anywhere but the Etihad this season, that Liverpool’s record 22-point lead was all part of their cunning plan.
After accumulating 198 points in successive seasons, a third consecutive top-flight crown is set to evade him with a whimper.
But nobody is really discussing just how badly City have imploded this season given the finances and infrastructure at their disposal.
Yes Liverpool are producing supernatural numbers, but City are in danger of almost incomprehensibly drifting back into the chasing pack.
They are statistically closer to Crystal Palace in 14th than they are to the Reds.
They are now as far adrift of the leaders as David Moyes’ Man United were in his infamous sole season at Old Trafford.
They have lost as many games as Arsenal and Wolves while they have conceded as many goals as United.
Pep will tell you it’s all because Aymeric Laporte, his number one centre-back, missed five months of the season with a serious knee injury, but that excuse is becoming tiresome.
A superpower of City’s status shouldn’t crumble just because one player is sidelined, but the way City have responded to Laporte’s absence would make you think they’d written off their entire season as a result.
It is their own naivety that has caused them to come unstuck, choosing to spend £60m on Joao Cancelo last summer rather than replacing the almost irreplaceable Vincent Kompany.
Shall we talk net spend?
That £60m on Cancelo is a chunk of the £527.79m net spend City boast since Guardiola’s arrival in 2016, comfortably ahead of the next highest and over five times Liverpool’s figures during that period.
The Reds, meanwhile, didn’t spend a single penny last summer, opting to hone and nurture the talent already existing in their squad instead of looking elsewhere.
There is a very real danger that Guardiola’s tenures are turning as sour as his great rival Jose Mourinho’s inevitably do.
Look at the Leroy Sane saga; the flying winger yearned for a return to Germany with Bayern Munich, but Guardiola opted to play him in the Community Shield at the start of the season. Sane duly did his knee ligaments and his dream move was off.
Guardiola himself is looking more and more rattled by the week, starting with his unforgettable meltdown at Anfield and culminating with that dig at the Premier League authorities yesterday.
In fact, the Spaniard agonising with his head in his hands is becoming one of the most prevalent images of the season.
He continues to play his best central midfielder as a centre-back, still hasn’t worked out his best penalty taker and has lost to glorified PE teacher Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at home… twice.
Pep is undeniably a victim of his own lofty standards, but at the same time he seems to be escaping warranted criticism for how this campaign is panning out.
Not only that, humility seems lost on him when Liverpool have out-thought and outfought his charges left right and centre.
Would it hurt to acknowledge – sincerely and non-sarcastically for once – that Liverpool have outmanoeuvred him?