Wednesday, September 22, 2021

The EPL: A series of strange events

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2020 has shaken us all to the core. For me it was an abrupt change of lifestyle and return home to Sydney, for others it was lost jobs or quite literally contracting Coronavirus. For the EPL, 2020 has brought some of the weirdest results I think I have ever seen. Not just anomalies and weird score lines, I am talking about a series of strange events.

I play Fantasy Premier League, so I am hyper-aware of players and teams, what everyone is talking about, who’s trendy, etc. In previous years, other than the odd fluke where a side that has freshly returned from relegation like Norwich beats Manchester City 3-2 (that really happened last year), you don’t see these unpredictable scores all that often. While I do love a big L from a team like City, the string of results we’ve witnessed over the last few weeks have certainly opened my eyes to the realities of what football in a pandemic, a few really strong signings and some players out with covid can actually do to the game.

Let’s start this one by addressing the elephant in the room. Liverpool lost 7-2 to Aston Villa on the weekend. With Mane out with Covid, Alisson out with an injury, there were causes for concern from the start. Adrian isn’t the strongest goalie in the league, and arguably not good enough for a side like Liverpool. Time and time again, we see him drop the ball, quite literally, in high-pressure situations. As always I aim to be empathetic and understanding of my Reds, but 7 goals from Aston Villa come without excuses. It’s called a bad game, and a game they should be humbled for, remembering that you have to bring the same focus to a game whether it is Villa or City. It does not matter. Granted Aston Villa has some incredible strikers and attacking players such as the likes of Grealish, McGinn, and Watkins who has certainly made an impact recently, driving 3 balls behind the net against Liverpool on the weekend. An achievement for the likes of Messi and Ronaldo in a Champions League game, this was a big statement from the lads from Birmingham.

Similarly, we saw a debacle between Spurs and Manchester United. I won’t sit here and pretend I expected much more from United. In their time under Ole, there’s been a lot left to be desired. Bruno Fernandes has been carrying the team for a while now, as the manager has been unable to find the balance with some of their high profile, barely utilized players (*cough* Pogba). It’s normal for teams to go through highs and lows, that’s what makes the sport interesting – but we are definitely witnessing some of United’s lowest points under Ole. It seems like we often go straight to the negative, when in reality, for one team to lose, the other won – and win, they did. Spurs came out of their dual with United with 6 stunners. Again, with the likes of Harry Kane and Son, goals are expected. However, results like the ones we saw on the weekend are unusual. Granted, the Liverpool result was arguably worse and we certainly saw some United fans crawl out of hiding to tell us what they thought. Classic.

All in all, we’ve witnessed some strange action over the past few weeks. Newly signed James Rodriguez has made an early impact, as well as strikers like Calvert-Lewin and Jamie Vardy reminding us why they remain in the Prem. I believe there’s been a shift in focus, as we see teams like Everton and Leicester take the stage as they come in with literally nothing to lose, no titles to defend, just a point to prove – and this may be a defining difference when it comes down to the line.

It’s early days, but I am both frightened and intrigued by the coming months of the English Premier League. Maybe after all this time, one of the big dogs will be fighting to stay out of relegation rather than fighting for the title? Who knows, 2020 is full of surprises.

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