After an enforced hiatus of nearly three months, the Premier League restart is finally upon us. Although there have been an incredible amount of hurdles to clear, the beautiful game is ready to return to English shores.
With Liverpool streaking off into the distance and already having more than one hand on the Premier League trophy, the last thing that they wanted was the null and void brigade to get their way and cancel the season before it reached its rightful conclusion.
That outcome would have meant that their 30 year wait for a league championship would be extended further and, after such an incredible unbeaten run between August and February, that would have been an incredibly bitter pill to swallow.
Thankfully, there was an overwhelming appetite to get the Premier League restart moving and, although critics will argue that it was a decision steeped in financial gain, no one can doubt the feelgood factor it will bring. Of course, that factor will quickly dissipate for teams whose results go against them.
A lot of focus has been on what is happening in the Bundesliga, who have already been playing for a number of weeks, and it has taught us that we shouldn’t expect the same Premier League that we left.
This is particularly true if you look at home advantage since the Bundesliga restart, or the lack thereof. In the 55 fixtures which have been played since the restart button was pressd, only 11 of them have resulted in a home win.
Perhaps the sample size remans too small to draw any definitive conclusions but the numbers don’t lie and they are telling a rather worrying tale as far as home support and positive results are concerned.
With stadiums shut to supporters for the rest of this season and probably the rest of 2020, Premier League outfits are going to have to consider how they will find the extra edge that a full house usually gives them.
Could this air of neutrality be the difference between playing in the Champions League or the Europa League next season? Could the stakes be even greater and decide whether a club plays first or second tier football next time around?
Although the lack of home advantage after the Premier League restart has the potential to be a rather pertinent issue, it does offer opportunities on the flipside. Before clubs would look at their remaining nine matches and highlight what they would consider ‘winnable’ games. A point here or there. Maybe three in an all-important tie at home and the primary objective would hopefully be reached.
Now though, if you remove the advantage of a home venue for opponents as well, in theory everything is up for grabs. Instead of being able to pick up points in say a quartet of outings, the potential increases to all nine. So home advantage might have been lost but away advantage has been gained.
This means that, although things may be different, they are still ultimately equal and therefore each of the 20 Premier League teams will find themselves in the same boat, meaning points could be dropped up and down the table.
At this stage of any campaign, some teams are usually guilty of being ‘on the beach’ and this relaxed attitude could be further prevalent this time around, especially as some players have shown apprehension regarding the Premier League restart.
Just how seriously will teams in the middle of the league ladder take the last handful of games? Especially if they are nothing more than dead rubbers and, with the potential for more results against the grain, it will only make betting on them more difficult.
Form can offer a useful insight into upcoming performances and, although it is never a guarantee for the fixture list ahead, it does offer a steer as to where you bets should be placed each weekend.
However, the notion of form is almost a misnomer now. The previous part of the campaign almost needs to be ignored as we are now embark on a nine round super sprint.
Add to the mix the potential for players to pick up injuries more often, due to a lack of sharpness, plus more substitutes into the game and the usual equilibrium of the Premier League will only be jostled even further.
With all this said, there’s no doubt that the return of the Premier League is keenly anticipated and the potential for some crazy results will only add to the drama. Although the wait for Project Restart may have been long, it will certainly be worth it in the end.