We’re not quite at the halfway point of the Premier League season and there isn’t really any talk about whether Manchester City will win the title anymore — which would make it three in seven years. That’s pretty much the received wisdom now.
On Saturday, City made simple work of a 4-1 home win over Tottenham Hotspur. The victory made it 16 in a row in the Premier League, extending the new English record. Three more wins and City will match Bayern Munich’s winning streak record among major European leagues of 19 — set when its manager was Pep Guardiola, who now commands the Sky Blues.
More wins seem in the offing, as City’s next league games will pit them against Bournemouth, Newcastle, Crystal Palace and Watford, who are placed 16th, 18th, 14th and ninth, respectively — and who have 18 wins among them, just one more than City by itself.
As an eerie fog descended over the Etihad Stadium, as if to emphasize the ethereal greatness of the home team, City completely outplayed one of the finest teams in the world in Spurs, which was having a perfectly competent game. Such is the dominance of Guardiola’s latter-day City. Other than a defensive error here and there, Spurs really didn’t do anything wrong. Mauricio Pochettino’s men are a strong side that played a fine game. They just ran into a generational assembly of talent, molded into an unbeatable collective by a master of the genre.
Some 10 minutes later, Sergio Aguero nearly put the game away early. But his blast on a breakaway was parried well by Lloris. Raheem Sterling snapped up the rebound, made some room but blasted his finish over.
All that Spurs mustered before the break was a shot Harry Kane curled wide of the far post. He also had the first chance after the intermission, when his long shot was tipped just wide by Ederson.
But the transcendent Kevin De Bruyne decided the game. Minutes after shaking off a horror tackle from Dele Alli, he smashed in City’s second to cap a phenomenal game.
Sterling, after missing several sitters, got the third by finishing off a splendid City move. The final pass came from Leroy Sane, who had been profligate himself.
Sterling also got the fourth, capitalizing on a bad mistake from Eric Dier and rolling the ball into the empty net.
Christian Eriksen bagged a late consolation goal for Spurs.
After 18 league games, City has won 17 and tied one. And with a 14-point lead over Manchester United — which retains a game in hand — the drama is more likely to come from City’s pursuit of an undefeated season than of the so-called title race itself.
An undefeated league season is such a rare thing that it would immediately enter City into the conversation of all-time great seasons. It’s only been done twice in England. Preston North End did it in 1888-89, in the very first edition of the Football League, the forerunner of the Premier League. And Arsenal repeated it in 2003-04.
Elsewhere, AC Milan won Italy’s Serie A without defeat in 1991-92 and Juventus matched that feat exactly two decades later. Last season, Celtic did it in Scotland, ambling to a sixth straight title by a margin of no fewer than 30 points.
But even among that exalted company, City might find itself standing alone if it pulls off the undefeated season. Preston North End only played a 22-game season. Arsenal plodded through the modern 38-game slate but tied 12 of those. Milan drew 12 of 34 games. Juventus tied 15 of 38. Celtic, meanwhile, settled for just four stalemates, winning 34 of 38 but did so in a league that it has dominated in every possible way since arch-rivals Rangers disintegrated a few years ago. And the Scottish Premier League is hardly a major league at this point.
Consider also that City has tied just once. That puts it on pace to tie only twice over the course of the entire season.
This notion rests on a lot of assumptions, of course. For one, City will have to keep up this form and stay healthy for another five months. It’s been lucky in that regard, losing only two players to extended injuries: defenders John Stones and Benjamin Mendy, both of whom admittedly would have been regular starters.
The Christmas crush will take a toll. As will the spring, when the high-stakes Champions League games will coincide with the domestic run-in. That’s where a game or two might slip away. Then again, City is impossibly deep, thanks to its moneyed owners, and it has gotten a favorable draw for the Round of 16 in Europe, where it will face FC Basel.
A completely undefeated season in all competitions is no longer possible, since City dropped its final Champions League group stage game in Ukraine to Shakhtar Donetsk — following, of course, five straight wins. But it can still put together a season for the ages, especially if it wins other silverware on the continent or in the domestic cups.
That seems to be what City is playing for, because not even one of the strongest teams that storied Tottenham has ever produced can trouble it right now.
Leander Schaerlaeckens is a Yahoo Sports soccer columnist and a sports communication lecturer at Marist College. Follow him on Twitter @LeanderAlphabet.