The Liverpool FC and Chelsea weakness that has given Man City huge advantage in title race

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Memories of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa are all played out to the annoying high-pitched drone of the vuvuzela.

Similarly, when the 2021-22 Premier League title race is reviewed, it will be the constant whine of Jurgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel that acts as the soundtrack.

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Manchester City have opened up an 11-point lead at the top despite being harder hit by Covid problems and injury than Chelsea, and only marginally less affected than Liverpool, and Pep Guardiola ’s rival managers have undoubtedly felt the heat.

Twelve wins on the bounce has left the rest gasping, and brought a welter of excuses and complaints from Klopp and Tuchel – principally that the Blues have been “lucky” with Covid, a claim that simply falls apart under scrutiny.

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Klopp moaned about having two games close together at Christmas, but even when their Boxing Day game against Leeds was postponed due to Covid problems at the Yorkshire club, Liverpool lost at Leicester and then drew at Chelsea.

Tuchel has also bemoaned his team’s bad luck with Covid and injuries, even though in three of their last six games Chelsea have had a full complement of 11 starters and nine substitutes who all have extensive first-team experience.

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Even in the showdown of the top two on Saturday, City stacked their bench with four inexperienced kids, whilst Chelsea had nine experienced players in reserve.

The fact that Chelsea and Liverpool have struggled to cope with City’s surge has not caused Klopp and Tuchel to whinge – if anything it is the other way around.

Their moans have infected their squads even more successfully than the omicron variant and done more damage.

Klopp once talked of his players as being “mentality monsters”, but they have looked anything like in the past six weeks.

And when your manager is constantly seeking excuses for failures, that mentality simply weakens.

Guardiola, by contrast, has nurtured a robust, never-say-die culture among his players.

One of the enduring images of this campaign already is that of the players celebrating Rodri’s late winner at Arsenal, to a scream of “Vamos!”, oblivious as the missiles of the enraged home fans rained around them.

It was a neat metaphor for their impeccable approach in recent weeks – no matter what is thrown at them, they have stood tall, and simply got on with it.


Video: Liverpool FC’s Mohamed Salah & Lionel Messi miss out on FIFA The Best Award to Robert Lewandowski (Liverpool Echo)

The manager made that point after the Blues had played AND scrapped their way to a 1-0 win over Chelsea at the weekend.

He made the point that his players are affected by Covid, and other issues, just the same as the rest – and referenced the fact that Joao Cancelo played at Arsenal just a couple of days after he and his family were the victims of a violent robbery at their home.

“We believe in what we do, it doesn’t matter what happens, we go and we go,” said Guardiola.

“In this season there are personal problems for the players, they are human beings, they have families. There are problems sometimes.

“For example, Joao had an incredible episode a couple of weeks ago with the family at home. How should you react in that situation?

“The way he reacted was exceptional, he said he wanted to play against Arsenal, in the cup (at Swindon), play today.

“There are highs and lows for players and you have to handle the situation. “Sometimes maybe Kevin (De Bruyne) has personal problems and I have personal problems as well but when they are there they try to do their best”

This is a City team that, in Guardiola’s first season – and at times since – had serious question marks over its resilience.

They had a habit of failing to win games when they went behind, have turned missing penalties into an art form and did not always respond well to setbacks.

They were in danger of being pigeonholed as flat-track bullies – a team that looked fabulous when everything was going their way but, on the odd occasion that they were up against it, did not have the requisite fight.

That was an exaggeration at best, but these days they are quite the opposite, and it reflects Guardiola’s own approach – whatever gets put in front of us, we need to simply get on with it.

Guardiola has complained in the past about the festive schedule in England, but his moans have tended to focus on player welfare – his fear that the players, of all clubs, are being burned out by the relentless nature of our football winter which then heads straight into a summer of international tournaments.

This season he has taken a different tack and made the vice of the demands placed on his players into a virtue.

Now when Guardiola and his players have a problem – key players missing, poor form, personal problems, Covid matters – they simply tighten their sword belts another notch and stand a little taller.

Imagine the Liverpool and Chelsea players hearing their managers whine about every little setback, every vagary of the fixture schedule, every perceived piece of “luck” that other teams get.

It would be difficult not to feel sorry for yourselves.

Then imagine being in the City dressing room, experiencing the same problems, and hearing your gaffer say: “If we have 11 or 12 players, it’s enough, we play. We have Cole Palmer, James McAtee and other players we try to play.”

You would be beating your chest, and climbing the walls to get at the next game.

And that is why the Premier League title race is currently being won by City, nothing else.

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