As Premier League Returns, Here is what to expect
- Premier League set to resume on June 17
- The pandemic has created a ‘New Normal’
- Mental Health and Psychosocial considerations during the COVID-19 pandemic
Premier League is days away from making a return which will be characterized by a set of ‘new and uncommon’ realities.
When Aston Villa entertain Sheffield United and Manchester City hosts Arsenal on Wednesday night, it will mark the return of top-flight football in England.
It will be exactly three months, three days since the league was suspended when Arsenal’s Manager Mikel Arteta and Chelsea forward Callum Hudson-Odoi tested positive for the coronavirus.
While the good news is that the two fully recovered and are back with their respective teams preparing for the resumption, the ‘not very good news’ is that there have been reports that one Norwich FC player is one of two Premier League players who have tested positive of the virus.
As seen in Bundesliga, LaLiga and in the two Coppa Italia semi-finals, Football’s new normal has a raft of unfamiliar changes:
Change of atmosphere
Teams like Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool are renowned for their electric atmosphere channeled through their fans who fill the stadiums – chanting and singing for their team. The atmospheres have been known to often intimidate visiting teams.
Dortmund have already felt the ‘gap’ of their twelfth player – Liverpool will soon be alive to this. The Reds boast a 100% record at Anfield this season and it will be interesting to see how Jurgen Klopp’s side fares in their home games against Crystal Palace, Aston Villa and Chelsea.
The cheers, jeers and boos from the crowd are now replaced by the echoing sounds of players and shouting orders from managers at the touchline.
English football matches are always laced with high speed of play and passes, trickery, tackles, players shoving each other and the zeal to win. These are some of what the Premier League is renowned for.
Each of these are always greeted by cheers or jeers from the crowd watching.
Derbies and rivalry matches would always have players pushing themselves to the last minute for a decent result – and in the post match interview, the players would often mention how they wanted to do it for the team and above all, for their fans.
The Premier League is famed for stunning upsets where big clubs have often been stunned by the lower ranking teams. This season has already seen Norwich City beat Manchester City while Liverpool’s push for ‘an Invincible season’ was rudely ended when they were put to the sword by Watford.
And with the fans gone, home sides may find it hard in this new reality. The lack of fans means that home advantage has been lessened somewhat, which may not favour the underdogs so much when they themselves are at home, but could come to their aid when travelling to face teams they are not expected to beat.
Issues of fitness and injuries
The three month break was unprecedented and curtailed sporting events. With players forced to quarantined and isolated, most players had minimal access to gyms and training facilities. This has led to concerns of fitness issues among the players.
This was clearly depicted in Bundesliga where there were 14 muscle injuries during the first round of games back in May.
Among the health and safety conditions and guidelines is social distancing. Football clubs have been asked to exercise and maintain social distancing – even when celebrating goals.
While Borussia Dortmund attempted this in their first match when the Bundesliga resumed, the players have been seen to have either forgotten about this or just thrown caution to the wind.
Number of substitutes
Premier League approved for the use of five substitutes with nine substitutes on the bench when fixtures recommence.
The decision came after Chelsea submitted a formal proposal to the Premier League to increase the maximum number of substitutes permitted on the bench from seven to nine for the remainder of the season.
The request to increase the number of substitute options available to managers stemmed from concerns about the greater risk of injuries following a lengthy break and the prospect of cramming nine matches into a six-week period.
Return of injured players
Before the break, several players picked injuries that were set to make them miss the rest of the season. The three month hiatus has provided the likes of Harry Kane of Tottenham, Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba to make a sensational return to action which is surely going to propel their team’s confidence when the games resume.