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Will unstoppable Manchester City seal Premier League title by Christmas?

With Manchester City's great form to the 2017 season, Mark Ogden discusses whether anyone in the Premier League can catch them in the table.

No team has ever held such a commanding lead after 11 games in the Premier League. Manchester City's margin over second-placed Manchester United is now eight points following Sunday's results, which saw City defeat Arsenal 3-1 at the Etihad Stadium shortly before United lost 1-0 at Chelsea.

City have won 10 of their 11 games in the league to date --  by his own admission, Pep Guardiola's best start as manager -- yet there may be a glimmer of hope for the chasing pack. It is only a glimmer, however.

Back in the 1993-94 season, Sir Alex Ferguson's United held a double-digit lead over Norwich, Arsenal, Blackburn and Aston Villa after 13 matches, racing 11 points clear of the pack by the end of October.

United moved 16 points clear by the end of December 1993 following a 5-2 victory against Oldham Athletic at Boundary Park, but a run of just two wins in six league games in February and March saw their lead slashed, before a 2-0 defeat at closest challengers Blackburn on April 2 left Ferguson's players ahead only on goal difference. The 16-point lead had evaporated in the space of three months, though United overcame their wobble to eventually win the title by eight points.

So City's eight-point margin is certainly vulnerable -- United, after all, let an eight-point lead slip with just six games left to play in 2011-12 -- but even if City do stumble, they seem to have built up enough of a cushion to enable them to bounce back as United did back in 1994.

Newcastle's collapse in 1995-96, after holding a 12-point lead in February, is perhaps the best straw for the chasing pack to clutch.

Kevin Keegan's team were almost as formidable as City, winning eight of their first nine league games, scoring goals at will. They seemed unstoppable too, but a combination of Manchester United's post-Christmas resurgence and squad tinkering by Keegan -- signing Colombian forward Faustino Asprilla which destabilised the team in the new year -- knocked Newcastle off their stride and they ended up finishing second in what had been regarded as a one-horse race for most of the campaign.

Those Newcastle and United teams that let leads slip all appeared as unbeatable as the current City side during their winning streaks so, with more than a half a season still to play, it is not inconceivable to think that Guardiola's men will suffer a slump at some point.

But Guardiola's squad is so strong that the chasing pack cannot rely on injuries to key players as the trigger for any loss of form.

Captain Vincent Kompany has now been sidelined for almost two months with a calf injury, but City have not missed their best and most experienced defender. Benjamin Mendy gave City defensive reliability and an attacking edge during his five games in the team following a £52 million summer arrival from AS Monaco and his cruciate ligament injury appeared, at the time, to be a destabilising blow. But Guardiola has re-invented Fabian Delph as a left-back and the team has hardly skipped a beat.

Up front, Sergio Aguero was briefly out of action because of the rib injury he suffered in a car crash in Amsterdam in September, but again, City shrugged off the setback and continued to win. Could City cope without in-form star Kevin De Bruyne if the Belgian midfielder were to be ruled out for any length of time? With such strength in depth, especially in attack, the answer is probably yes.

Without an obvious backup, if Aguero and Gabriel Jesus were both sidelined at the same time perhaps that would affect City's momentum, but the club score goals from so many areas of the pitch that even the loss of their two senior strikers would likely not spark a losing run.

Man City just have options all over the pitch, so injuries won't affect them.

So perhaps the question should not be "can City be caught?" but "can they be beaten?" Are they on course to emulate Arsenal's 2003-04 Invincibles?

With home and away games to come against United and Tottenham, plus trips to Liverpool and Arsenal, there is still plenty of scope for City to lose in the Premier League, but it will take a very good team to beat them.

There remains time for City to be caught, but their run of fixtures between now and the visit to Old Trafford on Dec. 10 will not offer much encouragement to their rivals.

City visit Leicester and Huddersfield, and host Southampton and West Ham, before facing Jose Mourinho's men, who have tricky trips to Watford and Arsenal before the Manchester derby. So, before they meet their closest rivals, the current eight-point gap could grow into double figures.

Indeed, United may now be looking over their shoulder rather than looking ahead to City. With just four points separating United in second and Arsenal in sixth, the real excitement looks to be in the race for Champions League qualification.

With City set to race over the horizon on their way to the title, the five-team scramble for second, third and fourth might be where the real action is this season.

Mark Ogden is a senior football writer for ESPN FC. Follow him @MarkOgden_


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