Deputy Sport Editor Adam Robertson gives his Premier League mid-season review, and discusses why a wide-open title race can only be a good thing.
Within the first three games of the season, it seemed a familiar pattern was emerging. The reigning champions of England, Liverpool, had brushed both Arsenal and Chelsea aside after a nervy opening game against Leeds. There was confidence amongst the fanbase that they were already on their way to retaining the title.
Since then, though, Aston Villa have beaten Liverpool 7-2 and Spurs have beaten Manchester United 6-1 at Old Trafford. The latter sit second in the table at the time of writing but their unbeaten run was brought to an end by Sheffield United, who had one only one game so far this season, while Southampton, Everton and Leicester have all been top of the table at one point.
The Champions now sit fourth in the table as the League continues to take numerous twists and turns. Football’s a fickle sport, but that notion has been more prevalent this season than most. The impact of COVID for each individual team will be debated amongst fanbase and pundits alike. Is it any coincidence that some players, John Stones being a notable example, have played themselves back into form without the added pressure of fans whereas others, such as Roberto Firmino, have at times perhaps suffered as a result?
The Premier League is never shy of claiming its status as the best league in the world. In recent memory though, the only real title race came in the 18/19 season where Klopp and Guardiola’s standards drove each other to incredible heights with 97 and 98 points respectively.
On the face of things, the Premier League appears wide open. Of course, the title race may yet fail to deliver. Man City find themselves in a good run of form, sitting top of the table with a game in hand over their local rivals who are sitting just below them.
Whilst many games, particularly the bigger derbies, have failed to deliver owing to the lack of fans; the odd nature of the season means the potential for, not necessarily a fairy tale, but for teams previously not thought to bring much to the league to stake a claim for a position above where many may have predicted they would finish.
For all the talk of a European Super League, which the ‘top six,’ would be the most likely candidates to compete in, the likes of Leicester, Everton and West Ham will no doubt have their sights set on a top six or even top four finish. It feels like every club has their sights set on something which, numerically, simply will not come to fruition for every club. As a result, more seems to be on the line and the league table, albeit not always the football itself, is all the more exciting for it in a time when football is needed as a distraction if nothing else.
We can only speculate at how long the unpredictability of this year’s league will continue but, so long as it does, it can only be a good thing.