WOnce again, your upside down. Such as Premier League Entering its third season of cut-and-closing schedules, and once again relegated to a voice urging on the edge of bigger things, it’s tempting to wonder exactly when this state of flow will end; At what time will the world’s most important league find its way out of the dark place. Or, in fact, if things were to go back to the way they were again.
Let’s face it, it’s been three years now. A competition that attributes its existence to capturing the foreground, as not being B-flick or short but leading, She will find herself exhausted again due to some really mind-boggling logistics.
In common with every other league, and indeed every other life, the last time England’s top level were able to contemplate an uncertain future was the pre-Covid period in early 2020. The years that followed led to a total shutdown, half-summer- Life, the Premier League rebellion, a winter of talk of fire, canceled dates and the forced sale of one of the selected member clubs.
Needless to say, this is all far from the brand. More than any other competition, the sound of the Premier League is about control and certainty, about the days and weeks — the wonderful Sundays, Monday nights, the full TV bleach from September to May — dominated by that inner tone of monolithic triumph. Like it or not, that voice became a little blindfolded, the presence of the roaring idol stretched out a little, and the tie skewed, clinging to the railing.
With the league kicking off on Friday at Selhurst Park, it’s worth taking a moment to appreciate how exactly that thing is going to happen from here. Welcome to the season with a hole in it, in which the entire calendar must stay in place in 10 months, like a flywheel separated from its gears, while the imposed Winter World Cup takes place. Strange things have happened in the past three years of disintegration, but this will extend everyone involved to their outer limits.
The first installment, which we might call Block 1, runs from August 6 to September 17, and is eight Premier League matches and two Champions League rounds. After that we will have two quick international friendlies, the last one before Qatar.
This is followed by Block 3 from October 1 to November 5, with eight more league matches and four more Champions League matches. Block 4 is the World Cup itself, a quick change to Arab Standard Time and a maximum of seven matches between November 21 and December 18. Then back to Northern Winter and Block 5, three Premier League games in one week from Boxing Day to January 2. At this point the season is free to emerge panting and sizzling, clinging to the nearest rock, wondering exactly what just happened.
There will be breaks along the way, and twists in the season’s durability. Take, for example, Harry Kane, who tends to play every game possible, as well as some that he can’t. In the next five months, Kane could be involved in up to 34 matches under three different global centers – the Premier League, UEFA, FIFA – across the UK, Europe, Europe and the Gulf. There will, of course, be teams of analysts studying how to reach a peak during this period, and when to relax the muscle fibers of the red zones. But there are also endless unintended consequences.
England’s provisional World Cup squad is due to be announced on October 21, with three league matches and two Champions League matches still to be played. Never before, the league season has been skewed this way by outside pressures. How will it affect players and choices? Would you give 200% more than 94 minutes against Wolverhampton away if your knee started pressing and the Qatar 2022 deadline was three days away?
The same goes after the World Cup. Players who are out of competition in the first 10 days will be excited through gears to restart. Lose the semi-finals and there will be some broken souls coming back to take the slack. Last season, Mohamed Salah scored 23 goals in the 26 before the African Nations Cup and eight goals in 28 after that. Don’t worry about covid. Don’t worry about the post-World Cup transfer frenzy that could reach the middle of the season for the first time. This already seems like the hottest time.
It must be a source of trouble too. Part of the major popular uprising last summer was the idea that the Europa League would destroy the structures of the domestic season. Take a look at the shock waves from Qatar 2022 and it seems abundantly clear that the same forces in another guise – the greed of national football, as opposed to the greed of the cartel clubs – have achieved the same thing from a different angle.
And while there is nothing at the moment to prevent a return next season, after four years, it is easy to feel a little skeptical. Another Super League buzz, another force majeure, a few other ripples, a few other interruptions. Time still passes. It seems a reasonable question. Have we already seen the best of this thing?
Perhaps this is an inappropriately destructive view. There is still a huge thirst for the Premier League product, and the broadcast has entered the dungeon. Even during the intervening years, the standard and the level of interest remained remarkably high. But given what might actually happen, there are still some notes of concern.
On the one hand, the Premier League field looks as strong as ever. On the other hand, Tottenham spent large parts of the summer as their third favorite to win it. A change of ownership at Chelsea has weakened the playing field, in the league where Manchester City’s title-dominance runs the risk of becoming a bit boring for neutrals.
The Premier League, as we hear it (most often from the English Premier League) has never been seen and never been late. Perhaps the new season can offer us something really valuable, if not new champions, then new competitors, support from the pack activated by these external forces.
It’s still strange to suggest that Manchester United’s revival could lead to an engaging story, although Eric ten Hag’s clarity has already been undermined by a familiar whiff of the club’s corrupt and celebrated culture. He’s recruited Arsenal well but remains, in the end, Arsenal. Perhaps a team with fewer World Cup players, such as Aston Villa, Crystal Palace or Brighton, would play a real role in the top four.
Otherwise, Liverpool would still be very strong. City will be challenged with an interesting tactical revamp around this startling new presence up front. But they’ll also benefit from the World Cup break: Pep-Erling’s front will likely be set with some hard work over those few weeks.
At the other end, it’s hard to look at at least two rising teams struggling, some extra wobbles from Everton, as well as hard-to-connect Leeds in either direction.
Furthermore, we can enjoy the benefits of using five alternatives, and some younger arbitration dates. Plus, on a reassuring note of normalcy, there’s again a new ball. Nike’s ride is basically the same as the previous ball. This AerowSculpt technology continues to be a “Healthier Journey”. But the ball will also bear marks that go back to the first-ever Premier League ball in 1992.
It sounds like a strangely soothing note of nostalgia for awkward times. Keep going forward. This will also pass. But not without another season of living dangerously.