The 2018-19 Premier League title race between Manchester City and Liverpool will go down as arguably the best-ever in the English top flight. The 2 sides began the season as odds-on favourites to achieve glory in the league this season, and neither wound up disappointing.
Manchester City finished with a whopping 98 points to Liverpool’s 97. You can read up on how to pick winners all you want, but few could have expected this race to have been as tight as it wound up. It was the most thrilling title race we’ve seen in the Premier League in years, but Manchester City was ultimately a more than deserving champion.
On Sunday, City were crowned champions for the second year running after a 4-1 drubbing of Brighton away from the Etihad. City went down a goal within 30 minutes of kickoff but recovered to take a 2-1 lead into the halftime break. The result was never in question from there, as Riyad Mahrez and Ilkay Gundogan supplied second-half goals to seal the deal.
Though Manchester City did enough to win the title by a point over Liverpool, some will still argue that this Reds side is superior. Liverpool are set to play in the Champions League Final for a second straight season, while European glory continues to elude Pep Guardiola’s side.
However, the underlying numbers suggest that City could have pretty easily won the title by more than the 1-point margin that ultimately decided the Premier League.
The 2 teams squared off twice during the season, and City came out on top overall. Guardiola’s side got the better of Jurgen Klopp’s men by a 2-1 margin at the Etihad back in early January after the sides played to a scoreless draw at Anfield in October.
The loss would be Liverpool’s lone defeat in the league all season long. While City wound up losing 4 times as many games as Liverpool, the Reds also finished with 7 draws to City’s 2. In the end, the Sky Blues’ 32 wins to Liverpool’s 30 wound up playing a huge role in the final standings.
City scored the most goals in the league (95) while allowing just one more than Liverpool, who were vastly improved defensively this season after last season’s addition of Virgil Van Dijk and this past summer’s signing of star goalkeeper Alisson Becker.
The advanced metrics provided by Understat also tell a similar story. In fact, these numbers indicate that Liverpool were a bit lucky to finish as close to the top of the table as they did. On the balance of the entire season, City were tops in the Premier League with an expected goal total (xG) of 93.72. Liverpool finished a very distant second at just 79.46.
The expected goals against margin wasn’t as staggering, but it was still noteworthy. City finished with an expected goals against tally of 25.73 compared to 29.15 for Liverpool. In reality, City conceded 23 times, while Liverpool let in 22.
City “underperformed” compared to last season, but not by much. City’s 98 points in 2018-19 was 2 fewer than they amassed during their record-setting, title-winning campaign a year ago, and Understat calculates their expected point total of 90.64 was still by far and away the best in the English top flight. Liverpool’s expected point total finished at 83.45.
While Liverpool may have overachieved, there is no reason to believe these 2 titans won’t be right back where they were this season, duking it out for supremacy at the top of the Premier League table. Neither club is likely to be as active in the transfer market as they have been in previous years this summer, but given the results neither side really has much reason to overhaul their respective squads.
Liverpool gave it a mighty run, but in the end, Manchester City are more than worthy champions of England.