If the Premier League was a superhero, it would be the Flash. So fast that it almost seems to be everywhere at once, it can come and go in the blink of an eye. Quicker, even. You can stare right at the English League and watch the lines blur seamlessly between the end of one season and the beginning of another.
At least, that’s how it felt this year. COVID-19 created a massive fixture congestion headache the likes of which English football had never seen before.
It halted the top flight campaign for three months and pushed it into late July. ‘Project Restart’ was hotly anticipated. Bored out of their skulls and desperate for a sense of normality, the British public were mighty relieved to see clubs take to the pitch, even if those pitches were surrounded by empty stands. The season concluded, fixtures were honoured, and punishments and rewards were duly doled out.
Liverpool won the league; Manchester City, Manchester United, and Chelsea made up the rest of the top four; Leicester, Spurs, and Arsenal got Europa League football and Bournemouth, Watford, and Norwich suffered demotion to the second tier. In normal circumstances, this climax is followed by a three-month long breather.
This time around, the time allocated for breathing was halved. That meant that the build-up to this Premier League season did not get as much attention as it would usually. However, any thoughts of interest waning were quashed after the opening round of games with Liverpool and
Leeds being the most-watched opening weekend game in U.S. history.
It was a good game to tune in for. We can imagine a fair number of the people watching switched on after the fixture had kicked off, having heard of the goal bonanza taking place at Anfield. Liverpool edged it 4-3. Heartbreak for Leeds. Not for long though. The following week they played out another 4-3, this time getting the better of fellow promoted side Fulham.
It’s hard to know how well Marcelo Bielsa’s team will do in terms of league finish this season. They score enough goals to top the table, but concede at the rate of a relegation contender. What isn’t difficult to imagine is how popular their brand of football will make them. Leeds, once the most hated club in the country, could be enroute to becoming everyone’s second favourite team.
These are truly strange times that we live in.
Liverpool brought 30 years of hurt to an end last season and they have done what all great teams are supposed to: strengthened while they’re in a position of supremacy. Thiago Alcantara arrived fresh from winning a treble with Bayern Munich and slotted into the side that beat Chelsea 2-0 at Stamford Bridge. Frank Lampard was backed with big spending in the transfer market but his team look a long way off gelling. For £200 million, one might expect a title challenge. However, on the evidence of their clash with Liverpool, Chelsea are incapable of mounting a serious one this season.
Don’t even get us started on United, who sluggishly opened their campaign with a 3-1 home defeat to Crystal Palace. These are rank outsiders for the title with Manchester City looking like the only side up for a fight with the Merseyside Reds. Or maybe Gareth Bale could transform Jose Mourinho’s Spurs into title contenders.
The Premier League is back. It’s almost like it never went away.