Only a week into December, several of Europe's biggest leagues are already shaping up to see monumental title fights, with the usual three big teams in Spain fighting it out at the top and any one of a handful in England looking capable-though not necessarily because they are all playing particularly well.
Over in France, however, it's a different matter: Paris Saint-Germain's dominance is extending into a fourth season and they sit atop Ligue 1 by a considerable margin, already well out of reach of the chasing pack and looking every bit as guaranteed their title medals as Bayern Munich do in the German Bundesliga.
When the gap between the best and the rest is this cavernous, though, both in terms of financial muscle and on-pitch quality, merely winning the title is no longer the challenge.
With 16 games played this season, the gap between PSG and their nearest challenge-Caen, improbably this season, who finished 13th last term-is already 13 points. In each of PSG's title-winning seasons going back three years, the gap to the runners-up was only eight, nine and 12 points. At this stage last term, PSG were in second themselves, a point off Marseille.
Whether by their own improvements or the struggles of their rivals, this looks set to be a ground-breaking season for the Parisian club in terms of the disparity between themselves and the rest; while that is a great achievement for the club and shows that the owners' intentions are going according to plan, the goalposts can now be shifted.
Rather than look at winning the title, this fourth one in a row should be set the target of being achieved unbeaten throughout the domestic campaign.
It's not simply a matter of telling manager Laurent Blanc, of course, that he is not allowed to lose a game. Instead, it should be utilised as a tool of improvement, mentally as much as tactically, so that the squad's overall focus is aligned with being absurdly tough to be beaten. While it will naturally lead to the Ligue 1 title, the mindset itself will be lent into other competitions-
namely, the UEFA Champions League, where PSG are still not yet the force they wish to be.
The big money spent on the likes of Angel Di Maria, David Luiz and Layvin Kurzawa in recent seasons have still not quite propelled the French team to the pinnacle of European football. The group stage this season pitted them against Real Madrid and, when the two sides clashed at the Parc des Princes, the two sides could only manage a tame and goalless draw. Both teams could be blamed for not being aggressive enough in going for the win, but as the home side the emphasis was on PSG to flex their muscles. In the reverse game back at the Santiago Bernabeu, it was Real who did enough to land the knock-out punch.
For PSG to truly believe they can compete with such superpower sides, they're going to need the absolute self-assurance of being hard to beat that going unbeaten domestically can provide. Of course they'll still
need to go and win big games in Europe to take that final step, but all the building blocks can be put in place first of all against the likes of Nice, Lyon and Caen-all top-five teams in Ligue 1, and all opponents of PSG in the coming weeks.
Some teams, their players and managers, have to accept that merely winning is not enough.
Real Madrid demand offensive football to go with positive results. Bayern Munich want absolute domination, of possession as well as of the domestic football scene, to go with each victory. Barcelona have a style which is religiously stuck to and fervently upheld. For PSG, the expected domestic titles they land, even if they don't have a long-term playing style philosophy, should go hand-in-hand at this point with being an invincible side in their homeland.
European success won't necessarily arrive just because of it, but will certainly be a lot more attainable if the team have that assuredness about themselves and the confidence borne of going unbeaten, week after week, against all manner of opponents.