The Liverpool and Man City era of dominance seems to be over

If I told you -- before the season -- that Manchester City were gonna be eight points back of first by the beginning of April, you would've been surprised. But not, like, that surprised.

Although City have been the preseason favorites to win the league in each of the past six campaigns, this isn't a Bundesliga or Ligue 1 situation where any other outcome might shake your very belief in the fundamental nature of the sport. No: Liverpool finished one point behind City last season, and preseason betting markets projected them to finish four points back in 2022-23. These are just predicted average outcomes; they're not bedrock truths, and soccer matches are frequently decided by random events.

Liverpool pushing beyond City this season wouldn't have shocked anyone because, well, we'd already seen it happen once before -- in 2019-20, when Jurgen Klopp & Co. finished 18 points clear of Pep Guardiola's side. That, of course, is not what happened. Although they have a game in hand, City are eight points back of... Arsenal, who haven't finished higher than fifth since Guardiola's and Klopp's first full seasons in England.

Liverpool, meanwhile, are currently in sixth and are averaging only the seventh-most points per game. They're seven points back of fourth place; they're 19 behind City; they're 27 off the top.

Before the season, it seemed as if this Saturday's match at the Etihad would be the biggest of the Premier League season: the final game between the two teams expected to battle it out, once again, for first place. Now, it's still a massive match -- only that's for City's chances of keeping pace with Arsenal and Liverpool's hopes of climbing back into the Champions League places.

So after four years of near-constant excellence from Liverpool and Manchester City -- performances that would've won multiple extra trophies at any other time in English soccer history -- is the Premier League's preeminent rivalry officially over?