The Premier League’s Crazy Results Explained
The dust had barely settled on Manchester United’s disastrous 6-1 home loss to Tottenham last month before Aston Villa stole the headlines by hammering reigning champions Liverpool 7-2 at Villa Park.
Those results overshadowed the shock of the previous week when the title favourites in the Premier League odds, Manchester City, were spanked 5-2 at home by Brendan Rodger’s Leicester City.
Then, in the last game week before the most recent international break, an Arsenal side that looked to be improving under Mikel Arteta were trounced 3-0 at home by Aston Villa.
What is it that is turning the Premier League on its head this season and causing these topsy-turvy results? Read on to find out.
Aston Villa 7-2 Liverpool has been the standout result of a crazy Premier League campaign so far.
“It was ball to hand, ref!” is one of the most comment refrains you will hear on any given Sunday League pitch across the country. Usually, it will encourage a referee to turn a blind eye to an accidental handball but not in the Premier League and certainly not this season.
If the ball so much as brushes a defender’s arm in the penalty area this season, Premier League referees are compelled to point to the spot. That’s thanks to the baffling laws that the PGMO are enforcing in which there is no such thing as ball-to-hand.
This tightening of the interpretation of the handball rule combined with VAR that compels referees to review every potential incident in super slow motion on the VAR review system means that a record number of penalties are being awarded this season.
2006-2007 was the most prolific season in terms of penalties, with whistle-happy referees awarding a huge 112 throughout the campaign. There have already been 41 penalties awarded thus far with less than a quarter of the season played – if this trend continues a total of 194 penalties will be awarded by the end of May.
This trend has certainly contributed to the sense of chaos in the Premier League this season. Take Leicester’s stunning 5-2 victory over Manchester City for example, three of the Foxes’ five goals came from the penalty spot.
Overzealous referees, VAR and ridiculous handball laws may not be the main reasons for the unpredictability of the Premier League this season, but they have played a significant role in the chaos.
Tottenham were the victims of a bizarre VAR handball decision earlier this season as they stumbled to a 1-1 draw at home to Newcastle.
There were 48 days between the end of the 2019-2020 Premier League season and the start of this one. That might sound like an ample amount of time for players to rest and recuperate and for clubs to formulate extensive preseason training routines, but it is almost half the amount of time that teams usually have.
In between the 2017-2018 season and the 2018-2019 campaign, there was a break of 90 days without club football. It’s therefore no wonder that clubs are feeling the effects of hectic schedules and that their performances on the pitch are suffering as a result.
If you then add in the fact that several clubs competed in postponed European competitions during that period of rest and the crazy international schedule, fatigue becomes so much more relevant.
So far this season a number of clubs have reported a stark increase in injuries, causing them to rely much more heavily on fringe and youth players. In an uber competitive league where no quarter is given, fatigue can tip the balance.
The Nations League went ahead during the shortened preseason to further increase the burden on already exhausted players.
Elland Road is an intimidating place for away teams to visit, it is a stadium that when full can feel as though it is bouncing in tune to the chants of the fans. This season, however, it is an eery, blue and yellow monument to the impact that Covid-19 has had on football.
The fear factor that players from opposition teams would have when going to retrieve the ball for a throw-in or standing next to a vociferous crowd to take a corner has all but gone. Earlier this month Leicester demonstrated that point brilliantly when they trotted out comfortable 4-1 victors at Elland Road.
It’s not just the fear factor at certain stadiums that has dissipated with the absence of crows either. Home sides are also losing out on their ‘twelfth man’ and that vital backing needed in the closing minutes of games to hold onto a result or to clutch victory from the jaws of defeat.
The form book, as a result, has completely been torn apart this season with home advantage playing a much smaller role in games.
On an individual level the lack of crowds has also impacted individual players, with some flourishing due to the lack of pressure that a crowd brings and others struggling to motivate themselves without that vocal support of the fans.
The 2020/2021 Premier League season is one like no other. Leeds United’s 16-year absence from the big time was greeted by an eery silence, as were Liverpool’s famous history making title winners.
Add into that the fact that tired and war-weary players have been forced to play three games a week, officiated by whistle happy referees and you have all the ingredients need for a cocktail of chaos.
As fans, all we can do is enjoy the unpredictability of the league this season and support our teams.
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