PREMIER LEAGUE IS BACK
I have never anticipated the return of football like this in a very very long while. I am usually resigned to the summer return in August but 3 months of no action was very agonisingly painful. Yes I know what you’re thinking……its just football! Not for me, I see it more as the beautiful game and cannot think of any other sport I’d rather watch as an alternative (respectfully of course).
The season resumed on Wednesday 17 June, 2020 with Aston Villa and Sheffield United kicking off proceedings. Villa find themselves languishing in the relegation zone, whilst Sheffield United harbour hopes of qualifying for Europe’s elite club competition but will need to literally win all their remaining games if that dream is ever to be realised this season. Aston Villa will need to win their games also, if they are to remain in the premier league next year but the odds are definitely stacked against them.
The game like all others was played behind closed doors but credit to Sky Sports for using crowd supported audio to add to the action for fans and supporters alike, viewing from the comfort of their armchairs. Villa gave it a good go but just couldn’t beat United goal keeper, Henderson. The defining moment of the game came when Sheffield United thought they’d scored with the ball visibly crossing the line but were denied by the referee. Unfortunately for the blades, VAR could not intervene and they walked away with a point from Villa Park with the game ending 0-0.
The second game of the return to action was between defending champions Manchester City and Arsenal. I will give Arsenal some credit for the way they performed in the first 10 minutes of the game because after that, they were nowhere to be seen. Manchester City absolutely dominated them, Kyle Walker and Mendy were full of running and causing problems for the Arsenal fullbacks. De Bruyne put in an impressive display as did Sterling.
Sterling put City ahead in time added on in the first half of the game after an error by David Luiz (he was on as a substitute after coming on in place of the injured Mari). I am sure that change made some Gooners very nervous indeed. And to make matters worse for the away side, Luiz was sent off in the 49th minute after the restart (hahahaha you can’t make it up). I would be very surprised if Luiz is still at Arsenal come the start of next season. City pressed on and went 2 up thanks to a neatly dispatched penalty from De Bruyne from the resulting Luiz red card.
Aguero had a few chances as the game progressed creating an opportunity for Foden to put the final nail in the coffin against Arsenal in the 92nd minute of play as the game ended 3-0. The victory more or less confirms City’s hold in 2nd place with all their hopes of a trophy now resting on the champions league. Arsenal meanwhile had an opportunity to dust themselves down and restore order at the weekend in their game against Brighton but sometimes things never go the way you plan it.
Pepe put Arsenal ahead with a wonderfully crafted individual goal and you would think that piece of brilliance would be the mental impetus the side needed. No no no, not Arsenal. Brighton were able to fight back and got their deserved equaliser through Dunk in the 75th minute before Maupay grabbed the winner in the 95th minute as the match ended 2-1 to the home side. There are many Arsenal supporters who are absolutely gutted by their team’s performances and will be demanding better from them.
Arsenal are now at a point in their history where they are at a crossroads. Either things improve and they get back to being a top 5 side or they hit the wall and become a top 15 side (yes I said it) or worse still find themselves in relegation dog fights in seasons to come. Put it simply, if they lose Aubameyang next season, it’s curtains.
Their North London neighbours aren’t having a great run of late either. Tottenham played host to Manchester United in a game that saw Mourinho go head to head with his former club. The game also saw the return from injury of a lot of key players on both sides, notably Son, Kane and Pogba (substitute). Bergwijn put Spurs ahead after a powerful run through the United defence before unleashing a shot De Gea couldn’t contain. Tottenham had the better of United in the first half but couldn’t find that elusive 2nd goal.
In the second half United came out with a different mentality and took the game to Spurs. Fernandes was a lot more lively and got better as the game wore on. Spurs on the other hand lost their shape and just looked completely out of place. All the positive displays of the first half were nowhere to be seen. It felt like a total U-turn. Pogba was introduced as a substitute and you could see he was really up for the task at hand. United fans were given a glimpse of the midfield partnership between Pogba and Fernandes (honestly they looked really good together) and you can see that there is plenty to come from them. As United pressured Spurs, they were awarded a penalty after Dier brought down Pogba and the game was leveled by Fernandes from the resulting spot kick. United could have won the game in the closing stages but the referee refused to award a late penalty after Fernandes appeared to be fouled in the penalty box (looked like he was trying it on to be fair).
I think Spurs know their season is over and will probably just do enough in games to keep the score lines and league position respectable. Mourinho will be judged on his performance next season so we can afford to give him the benefit of the doubt for the remainder of this campaign. There were wins for Wolves who beat West Ham 2-0, Crystal Palace who beat Bournemouth 2-0 also respectively. Chelsea stake claim on the champions league spot having beaten struggling Aston Villa 2-1. Liverpool and Everton drew in the mersyside derby, but the Reds are a step closer to glory.
Well done to all Premier League players for their powerful statement of solidarity in support of the black lives matter movement and also for the respect given to those that have lost their lives to covid-19.