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EPL – The More Things Change..

To borrow a few words from the late John Prine, the EPL restart has been “Pretty good, not bad, I can’t complain / But actually everything is just about the same.”

By Greg McKay 

As had been the case so many times in the 2019-2020 campaign, technology stole the show again in the first match back between Aston Villa and Sheffield United. The Blades had appeared to go ahead from a set piece in the forty-second minute only for the Hawk-Eye Technology to fail in signaling a goal to referee Michael Oliver. 

Though replays showed the ball had crossed the goal line by a fair margin, VAR was not used to confirm the decision. The most shocking part of the incident was not that technology had failed— it apparently had to do with a line of sight issue amongst the Hawk-Eye cameras—rather the error laid bear the fact that the referee and linesman seemed almost entirely reliant on the technology. 

Michael Oliver repeatedly pointed to his watch as if to say he certainly wasn’t responsible for missing what appeared a clear goal. One also wonders how the far side linesman didn’t see the ball cross the line as he likely would have had an unobstructed view down the end line if he was properly positioned. The incident should raise questions as to whether match officials have become too reliant on the technology and are not expecting (or positioning) themselves to make the big calls. 


Next, for all the hopeful Arsenal fans on both side of the Atlantic who read stories about how Mikel Arteta was drilling his team in the finer points of how he wanted them to play during the break, a docile display against Manchester City showed not much has changed in North London for a club that has lost by a combined score of 20-2 in its past seven games against the Sky Blues. 

Certainly Arsenal showed sparks in the final third with Bukayo Saka continuing to look a real talent, but the club need a massive overhaul in defense and midfield if they have any hope of competing for Champions League football next season. A midfield pairing of Matteo Guendouzi and Dani Ceballos were simply not up to the task of keeping up with City’s world class midfield and David Luiz proved he is a complete liability. 

The Gunners were not the only team to be left blushing following a return to action across the league. We continued to see teams such as Manchester United, Tottenham and even Manchester City show they have fallen far behind Liverpool.

Though Liverpool were not at their sparkling best in the Merseyside Derby, the level in the United v. Spurs match and City’s game against Arsenal was far off what you’d expect if teams were looking to close the gap as they finish the season and show they are prepared to compete more robustly next year. 


Chelsea may have been the only big club to demonstrate they’ve retained some of their best qualities from before the break. Against Aston Villa, Frank Lampard’s squad went down against the bottom-dwelling Villans only to climb back on top with goals from Pulisic and Giroud.

Though they went through rough patches in Lampard’s first season in charge, Chelsea continue to display a real spirit and willingness to play positive football even when down in matches. 

Chelsea’s performance was all the more impressive as the challenges of playing in empty stadiums when not fully fit makes finding the energy to battle back in games particularly difficult. With the addition of Timo Werner and rumors of more signings to come, Chelsea appear in poll position to challenge for a title next season if they can keep the core of the squad intact and continue developing what is a veritable stable of young talent. 

In the end, the football may have been much the same as when we left off in mid-March, though so much has changed in the meantime. During a time when the world has turned its attention to more meaningful types of challenges, from fighting a pandemic to supporting racial justice, Premier League football may not have been the “key to escape reality” that John Prine wrote so elegantly about but it surely put a (legal) smile on the faces of fans around the world.

Sheffield United in action at Aston Villa <a href=wwwavfccouk target= blank rel=noopener noreferrer>wwwavfccouk<a>
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