Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola expects “normality” to return to the Premier League this season after his side’s recent record-breaking battles with Liverpool.
For the past two seasons, City and Liverpool have created enormous gaps to the remainder of the league.
Last term, Liverpool, who won the title by 18 points, finished 33 in front of the third-placed team. Twelve months previously, City, who edged out Jurgen Klopp’s men on the final day, were 26 in front of third-placed Chelsea.
When Guardiola won the Premier League for the first time in 2017-18, City were 23 points ahead of third-placed Tottenham.
Yet such massive points gaps are not commonplace. Since 1999-2000, the gap between the title winners and third-placed team has been more than 20 points on only one other occasion, in 2007-08, when Manchester United were top, 21 points ahead of Liverpool, who finished third.
After five rounds of fixtures so far this term, only Aston Villa and Everton have avoided dropping points in at least two games. And Villa, like City, have only played four matches.
Guardiola accepts it is early to start making judgements.
However, he feels the packed schedule of a campaign that started four weeks late and has condensed the entire European group stages into six successive midweeks, broken only by the November international window, will play a huge role.
“It looks like it,” he said, when asked if it could be a ‘crazy’ season. “There are results no-one expected.
“The history speaks for itself. This is the most open league in the world and many teams can win it. What has happened in the last three seasons, with teams dominating and reaching almost 100 points, is an exceptional situation. Maybe normality will be back for this season.
“The teams who have seven or eight days to prepare for games have a huge advantage. That is why everyone can lose anywhere.”
City should feel confident about their trip to West Ham on Saturday.
Under Guardiola they have played at the London Stadium on five occasions and scored 22 goals in five straight wins, never scoring fewer than four times.