After what seemed like an eternity without football, fans of the Premier League were finally able to see their favourite teams and players back in action over the last week. One would have thought that the old adage, ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’, would apply here and that there would be a general feeling of delight at having some form of football back on our screens. However, as the final whistle blew on the last game for this round of fixtures on Sunday night, there was a definite sense of disappointment at the quality, or rather, the lack of quality of football on display.
It started off with the goalless draw between Aston Villa and Sheffield United, which was the first game back. Even with the Blades being denied a clear goal due to the malfunctioning of Hawkeye’s goalline technology, the rest of the game was quite drab, with not too much quality to write home about. Fans may have expected the next game, Manchester City vs Arsenal, to be better, and it was, to a certain extent. However, even here, it was more about individual errors (just go have a look at David Luiz‘s impact off the bench) rather than any well-worked team moves or structured play. While this is to be expected, as the players have been away from the pitch for over three months, it is still nevertheless underwhelming to watch as a fan. Teams will need at least a couple of weeks to build up their match practice and rhythm, and so it is likely that we will see these sort of displays for the next few matches.
The story continued throughout the rest of the matches. Manchester United vs Spurs was yet another story of individual mistakes, with David de Gea and Eric Dier trading blows in that regard to leave both teams with a sense of what might have been. Leicester and Watford’s match saw the opposite, with Ben Chilwell’s thunderbolt being cancelled out by an overhead kick by Craig Dawson, of all people. There were a couple of other really good goals this weekend (see Nicolas Pepe’s goal against Brighton), but not too much evidence of superior tactical play. All of this makes it even more difficult for fans to commit to football betting on NetBet and other betting sites, as it seems as if individual quality and moments will determine the outcome of matches in the first few games of Project Restart, rather than team cohesion.
This is not to say that teams who are doing well tactically will suffer. Manchester City showed enough in their display against Arsenal to make it clear that theirs is still a pretty well-oiled machine, while Wolves and Chelsea also put in encouraging displays. However, there is an undeniable rustiness to all the teams, which is understandable given the length of time that they have been away from the pitch as well as from training, and thus we should probably give it a couple of weeks before we can expect to see the level of football that the Premier League is famous for.