Liverpool and Chelsea's draw a further sign of Man City's dominance
LIVERPOOL, England -- Manchester City may be producing some of the most exciting football of the Premier League era under Pep Guardiola this season, and they might go on to emulate Arsenal's "Invincibles." But for all the plaudits deservedly heading their way, City are also making life an absolute misery for the chasing pack.
Jurgen Klopp admitted as much after watching Willian's late strike for Chelsea deny Liverpool an important victory at Anfield.
"In our situation, and all the other clubs, if we would really think about Manchester City, we would be all really crazy," Klopp said. "How could we get Manchester City? This isn't how it works. OK, we have to win games, but if they go on winning their games, we can do whatever we want.
"It's really important in life to have your own targets and then you can be a happy person and a happy person can stay a confident person who can reach a lot," the Liverpool manager continued. "But I didn't think a second about Manchester City. What I thought was that we really should have won. And then we would have three points more. Even with Chelsea, that would have been nice, closer to Tottenham. The position is still OK, but we have to improve."
In other words, forget about City, because we know we can't catch them. Liverpool are 11 points behind the leaders in the table after this result; Chelsea, meanwhile, are eight points back. Both have played a game more than Guardiola's men, as have second-place Manchester United, who are five points off the top.
City will expect to pull further clear when they visit Huddersfield on Saturday which means that after a pulsating game at Anfield between well-matched teams, the only conclusion to be drawn on behalf of both is that they dropped two points apiece.
In almost any other league season, both teams would privately settle for a point from this fixture on the basis that games you do not lose against your rivals are ultimately victories, because they stop the opponents pulling away.
If you want an exaggerated piece of evidence of that, consider the impact of Man City's 6-1 win against Man United at Old Trafford during the 2011-12 season. Not only did the three points prove crucial, but the goals scored ended up swinging the title in their favour, with United denied on goal difference by their neighbours.
But Guardiola's City have now raised the bar so high that the old rules have been rewritten and draws against rivals are no longer enough.
It is why Jose Mourinho was criticised for his side's performance in the 0-0 draw at Anfield earlier this season. The Man United manager was playing to the old rules, which stated that a draw at Liverpool was always a good result in a race for the title.
But with City beating all comers, their would-be title rivals must win against their closest challengers or forget about becoming champions. It is a harsh measuring stick, but the screw has been turned to such an extent that the pressure has now become intense on all of the chasing pack.
United are perhaps the only team with a realistic chance of catching their cross-city rivals this season but the pressure is just as onerous on them because, in all likelihood, they must beat City twice, avoid further slip-ups and hope that Guardiola's men suffer a wobble or two.
Just imagine, for a moment, this season's title race without City in it; it would now be building up into one of the most exciting of the Premier League era. United would be top -- six points clear of Liverpool three places below them -- and every point would matter.
Saturday's draw would have kept Liverpool and Chelsea in the hunt and would have been regarded as point earned, rather than two dropped. At this stage of the season, it is usually all about staying in contention and keeping in touch until the turn of the year; Liverpool and Chelsea would be breathing down United's neck, as would Spurs.
But the reality is that City are pulling clear at the top and eradicating any kind of margin for error that the chasing pack would once expect to have had at this stage of a season. Indeed, sooner or later, clubs may start to look at a game against City as one they cannot win and may consider resting players for fixtures that can result in three points. If that happens, the title race will become even more predictable than it is now.
So the onus is on the teams at the top to put more pressure on the apparent champions-elect, and one of them may need to pull away from the rest of the chasing pack. That could be United, but Mourinho would have to alter his safety-first approach against big rivals.
United travel to Arsenal next week and they cannot go there playing by the old rules, seeking a point as they may have done in the past. Just as a draw was not enough for either Liverpool or Chelsea at Anfield, nor will it be enough for United at the Emirates.
That is what City, with 34 points won out of 36 on offer, have done to the title race: They are forcing the rest to go for broke, but none of them has been able to do it yet.
Mark Ogden is a senior football writer for ESPN FC. Follow him @MarkOgden_