Review of 2020–21 Premier League so far: Hell of a Start
There’s no secret that EPL is the most-watched football league in the world. These guys cracked the code way early than most leagues to achieve global viewership. Even though a regular fan is privy to all the top European leagues with just a click on an app, that doesn’t make any league worthy enough of our attention. It’s the game which eventually binds or rather commands our attention to the screen. It’s the unpredictability of any moment which makes you stick from the kick-off to the last second. It’s the competition which has made it a topsy-turvy race for different teams rather than a one-team league. Simply said, it’s all the reasons why we love football. Even with the domination from Liverpool and Manchester City over the last few seasons, does it have anything new to offer? Guess what, let’s check the points table as of now.
Raise your hand if you predicted this top 4. Now lower your hand, because you are a liar. This season saw Premier League turn heads for stirring up the transfer market. Everton signed James Rodríguez from Real Madrid. He found his starting place back under Ancelotti who brought him to Madrid in the first place. Everyone predicted Liverpool to top the table with the usual suspects lurking behind in the top 4 or top 6. Who knew the other team from Merseyside would sneak up on them to top the table.
James has been repaying his manager’s faith by putting in winning performances in all the games. To be honest, they haven’t faced any top-flight team except Tottenham. Still, a great position to be in considering Merseyside Derby challenge in the next match. Ancelotti has a notorious history of slipping lead in the league due to European competition during his AC Milan and Real Madrid days. However, Europa and UCL are like a mirage for Everton. He would be hoping to change that this season.
Chelsea splurged close to 300 Mn dollars to bolster the squad with the likes of Thiago Silva, Timo Werner, Hakim Ziyech, Kai Havertz, Ben Chilwell. However, their goalkeeping woes continued this season with Kepa as the primary option. Remember his blunder against Liverpool this season. They made a move for Eduoard Mendy to have a solid backup option. Chelsea has had a rough start by losing to Liverpool, a bad 3–3 draw against West Brom after leading for an entire half. Bowing out of the Carabao Cup on penalties against Tottenham. They have a young loaded squad who is still not firing on all the cylinders but Lampard would be hoping to have the fortunes turn in his team’s favour soon.
Arsenal secured another Chelsea star in Willian with another few young stars and look rejuvenated this season. They finally made an offer which Aubameyang couldn’t refuse. Finally learning a lesson after Van Persie. Even though they lost to Liverpool in the league match, they were able to get the best of Liverpool in other competitions. Knocking them out in penalties in Carabao Cup, a repeat of Community Shield victory. This could be their year after all with Arteta trying to imbibe the Gunners culture and bring the glory days back. Considering the way teams switch their managers, it is similar to a girl swiping those boys left on Tinder. It’s refreshing to see Arteta and Lampard leading their respective teams. No one better to guide the team to the old glory who has experienced that culture upfront and close.
Tottenham secured two stars from Real Madrid — Sergio Reguilón and a homecoming for Gareth Bale. Mourinho would wish for Bale to rediscover his love of football for their team’s sake. However, it would be interesting to see the clash of characters in the dressing room: Bale, Kane, Lloris, Mourinho. It’s been some time since Mourinho’s team has been consistently good in their performance and records. He could not salvage Tottenham last season but will look to set the record straight this time around. It has been a streaky start so far but with the return of their biggest star later this month, it can turn the tides for good. They could gain some serious confidence with their 6–1 away thrashing of Manchester United in the last match. Wow, wasn’t that some stamping of authority?
To help Spurs’ cause, Manchester United didn’t put up any fight either. A dead man would have been more lively than United’s players. They looked nothing more than spoiled brats who lack the character, perseverance, passion and talent to wear United crest. They would rather throw their manager under the bus without skipping a beat. It was a Déjà vu of 2011 defeat against City. United has had a terrible start this season. Their only victory came at the mercy of stupid VAR rule at the last minute of stoppage time.
They have been miserable at the back and could not get any support in the transfer window. Their endless pursuit of Sancho yielded no result. Sure they secured past-his-prime Cavani on a loan and a few other young stars but that doesn’t strengthen their biggest weakness- defence. United has found a way to hit a new low every time which makes rock-bottom look like the Everest. Remember when Mourinho reminded the press that coming 2nd in the league in 2017–18 season was the biggest achievement of his career. In the hindsight, the man wasn’t wrong. There’s nowhere to go but up, else they might end up fighting whole another battle- relegation.
Their noisy neighbours have been underwhelming as well. They can brag about being better in the table than United but overall 14th position doesn’t bode well with Guardiola’s team. With all the noise surrounding Messi’s possible transfer saga, no one was more hopeful than Cityzens for a Messi and Guardiola reunion. They still had their eyes on the primary target Koulibaly. Indeed they had to settle with Ruben Dias and Nathan Ake. Still, no one could foresee them losing 5–2 to Leicester City. This was the first time Guardiola ended up being on the wrong side, conceding 5 goals in a single game. With their star-studded midfield and attacking options, they can surely overscore the opponent every time and would surely look to end up in the top 4 of the table, possibly win it all. Considering Guardiola’s contract situation, he would surely hope for a great farewell present.
Liverpool didn’t need much but could still get hold of Thiago from Bayern and a decent one in Diogo Jota. It just made them that much stronger considering an in-form Thiago from a treble-winning season. However, their defence is worrying up their fans this season. The defence which hardly conceded goals have allowed 13 goals in last 6 games with 10 of them coming in just 2 matches. You thought United-Tottenham was something. Hold my beer. They were handed their biggest defeat ever in Premier League by Aston Villa. 7–2. Liverpool also could not capitalize on other opportunities by losing in penalties to Arsenal in Community Shield and Carabao Cup. However, they have had the toughest fixtures so far by playing Leeds, Chelsea and Arsenal and have beaten them all. Still, all doesn’t seem well. Thiago was recently tested COVID positive with Mane joining him a few days later. With the international break, they should be able to recover well in time for coming fixtures and hope no one else joins them for quarantine.
One more thing which has bothered players, managers and pundits alike has been the recent change in VAR surrounding handball penalties. We have seen some ridiculous penalties being awarded for the slightest unintentional handballs. It has come under heavy criticism considering the way defenders go about their business on the field. No defender in their right mind would tie their hands behind the back in the box for this stupid rule, defying the physics of human movement. The idea behind VAR was to reduce officiating errors and bring in efficiency rather asking players to err on the side of caution. Surely the league is listening and would come up with a modification to the rule soon.
The underdogs have been a breath of fresh air. Leicester City has started strong with 3 wins out of 4 matches. They have exited Carabao Cup but would be hoping to continue on the back of the heroics of Jamie Vardy in the league. His golden touch seems to have continued from where he left last season — with 2019–20 Golden Boot.
It wasn’t long back when Aston Villa was celebrating not getting relegated on the last day of the season. The locker room celebrations were nothing short of a championship victory. Who knew a couple of months down the line they would celebrate humiliating Liverpool and sitting at 3 wins out of 3 games. Does this ring any bell? Leicester City’s 2015–16 campaign saw them achieve the unthinkable after a relegation struggle in the previous season. Too early for Aston Villa to dream about it but surely it would make one hell of a story.
Last time Leeds United played in the Premier League, the world wasn’t aware of Ronaldo or Messi, Arsenal were invincibles and Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City were yet to win a premier league title. 16 years later, they find themselves back in the premier league with a bang. They are managed this time by one of the best tacticians in the premier league or world as of now — Marcelo Bielsa. Just look at the team formation during the matches, you will get an idea. Go watch “Take us Home: Leeds United” on Amazon Prime. They announced their arrival on the premier league stage by scoring 3 against Liverpool in the opener and leading for a brief period of time in the match. Guardiola threw heaps of praises upon Bielsa after a tough 1–1 draw against Leeds. They surely can surprise us this season and are definitely here to stay for a long time under Bielsa.
My predictions for this season: Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham, Leeds, Leicester City, Manchester United, followed by rest.
It’s still early considering Premier League’s track record, we surely are in for a lot of surprises. The aftermath of COVID finds multiple teams reeling under a jam-packed league and international schedule. With the second wave of COVID affecting Europe currently and a few players, we sure hope it doesn’t wash away this season. For it won’t just impact the league fixtures but will have a long-lasting effect carrying forward till the 2022 World Cup. With the highly competitive nature of the league, it will be another gruelling season for the teams, managers and players. We can look forward to another nail-biting and entertaining season. In the end, there’s only one winner amidst all the adversities — Football.