Dark Horse Chronicles – Manchester City

The darkhorse for this week seems like a crazy name to include because of how they are performing so far in this season. As well as the fact that they ended last season as Champions. They set a new points record with 100 points in the Premier League, so how can they be a darkhorse?


History is not on the side of champions repeating, in fact, only their bitter rival across town have ever managed to do it. In the 26 year history of the Premier League, it’s only been done a couple times and even fewer are back-to-back-to-back repeats. United managed 2 back-to-back Championships (1993/1994) in addition to 3 back-to-back-to-backs (1998-2000 and again 2006-2009). The closest City has been was after they won the 2011-12 title, which they lost the following season by 11 points to United before winning again the following season.

Let’s take a look at some of the points tallies amassed by United in these years. In a rare feat, the first time United repeated, they actually increase their points total the second year. The second time they would accomplish this, it was a loss of 7 points the second year. Over time, the standing trend would be a drop of about 10 points from the first winning season to the next.

What does this mean for City?

Does it mean they can’t win it all again? No, it definitely doesn’t. They finished last season in nothing short of insane form, thus their record setting season. Even with a drop of 10 points, they’d finish well above the second place team (at least in the 2017-2018 season). They’ve managed great form so far this season even with Kevin de Bruyne battling injuries. I mention them as a darkhorse because they will have achieved something never done for this club — which is quite the achievement on its own! What is interesting to me is that FiveThirtyEight Soccer Predictions actually give them double the likelihood of winning the Premier League (73%) than they do of making the Champions League final (37%). However, even that projected model indicates that they think it’s unlikely they maintain their record setting form. It would also mean great things for a number of my darkhorse teams: ChelseaTottenham Hotspur, and Liverpool. Although spoiler alert, if Manchester City wins the title then no one else can (sorry Liverpool fans…)

Champions League

The numbers, although not overwhelming, are better than most of their competitors odds of making the final. Although a bunch of the household names aren’t far off (~10%). The margin does, however, narrow substantially when we shift the focus from making the game to winning it. Eventually, it narrows to 4 teams with a greater than 10% chance of winning; Manchester City, Barcelona, Juventus, and Bayern Munich. Shocking, I know — none of those teams are what you would have expected at the beginning of the year… or wait… those are exactly who they are! One seemingly notable absence? Their arch rival from across town who seem to have fallen somewhat off the pace.

Where do we go from here?

City need to continue focusing on each game as it approaches them. They run the risk of being overconfident and surprised if they can’t maintain their focus. Will they write history by claiming their first back-to-back titles? It definitely seems plausible now, they managed to only get better in the offseason — despite having won the league.

How about the Champions League? It might have as much to do with the draw and how that unfolds (shaping their path to the Championship) that will have the biggest implications for their odds. We’ve seen surprising results in the past and frankly, that’s why we play the games. Ultimately, we’ll have to be patience to see what success(es) they’ll be able to attain this year.

Until next time…

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