The Premier League is finally back after a 100 day absence, and there were lessons to be learnt from Wednesday's action.
After 100 long days filled with furlough schemes, Marcus Rashford taking on the government and everything in between, we had two Premier League games to ease us back into the swing of things.
180 minutes later, we had plenty of talking points. Here’s five things we learnt as the Premier League made its comeback:
Kevin De Bruyne Is Still A Ridiculous Footballer
After sitting through 90 minutes of Aston Villa trying to score a goal (which looks about as likely as their chance of survival), it was time for a treat; an hour and ten minutes of watching Kevin De Bruyne play football.
If there was any suggestion of players being off the pace after an extended break, it didn’t show when KDB had the ball. Another midfield masterclass from the Belgian gave him his 17th assist of the season, and his ninth goal followed as he capitalised on David Luiz’s awful defending to convert a penalty.
Watching him play brings back memories of Zinedine Zidane, a playmaker of the highest quality with the touch and technique as good as anyone. In hindsight, playing against a midfield of Joe Willock, Matteo Guendouzi and Dani Ceballos was never going to be his toughest test, but his creativity was on show from the first whistle.
His pass to set up Riyad Mahrez in the first half was like watching a surgeon’s scalpel go through flesh, and only didn’t result in a goal thanks to a fine Bernd Leno save.
His performance never dipped, and he ended the game with the return he deserved for his efforts. He should be an absolute shoe-in for Player of the Year, even if Jordan Henderson can improve on his tally of an incredible *checks notes* three goals and five assists in the remaining nine games.
Who Forgot To Unfurlough Goal Line Technology?
Poor Sheffield United.
In a game desperate for a goal, they should have had one when Aston Villa goalkeeper Orjan Nyland blundered and stumbled into his own net when taking a cross.
Blades boss Chris Wilder said after the game that the keeper was practically in the Holte End when he caught it, and the replays showed that wasn’t such an exaggerated statement.
Sky Sports reported that referee Michael Oliver’s goal line technology watch went off in the changing room at half-time. Slightly too late for Sheffield United’s liking.
Hawk-eye released a statement after the game saying that the error has never happened in over 9,000 games, but a combination of things contributed to the error.
Errors happen in football, but if Aston Villa survive this season by a point or less, and Sheffield miss out on European qualification by less than two points, this could have been a massive moment in an already mental season.
Mikel Arteta Has His Work Cut Out At Arsenal
If anything, the enforced break that coronavirus brought was good news for Arsenal fans, and bad news for Mikel Arteta.
It was good for Arsenal fans because they could be optimistic about their recent form (they were unbeaten in nine Premier League games before last night), and hopeful of players like Kieran Tierney and Pablo Mari being available.
But it was bad for Mikel Arteta, as momentum was lost and it’s quite hard to pick it back up against a side as good as Manchester City. The team selection from Arteta was odd, with a new centre-back pairing, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang playing out of position once again on the wing, and Eddie Nketiah starved of any service up front.
It’s only one game of course, but everything that happened in it summed up just what Arteta has to do at the Emirates. David Luiz – out of contract in a couple of weeks and erratic at the best of times – was a disaster, and Mesut Ozil didn’t even make the 20-man squad.
Ozil’s future must be resolved, there’s question marks over what Aubameyang’s going to do, Alexandre Lacazette was on the bench behind a teenage striker, Gabriel Martinelli didn’t even get a minute on the pitch despite five subs being available, and two players went off injured before half-time. Don’t get it twisted, Arteta and Arsenal have serious work to do if they’re going to be challenging for the top four anytime soon.
People Can’t Work Out Whether Crowd Noise Is Good Or Bad
When I tuned into Villa vs Sheffield United, I’ll be honest – I forgot crowd noise was being added to the broadcast by Sky Sports. It was only when I realised that the sounds didn’t quite match up with the action that I realised something wasn’t quite right.
I’m not against crowd noise being pumped into the broadcast, but I’m not sure I’m for it either. The thing is, I want to hear things being shouted on the pitch and from the sidelines, but on the same hand I don’t want it to sound like a training game. The two seem to go hand in hand from what I’ve watched of the Bundesliga since it returned a couple of weeks ago.
And heaven forbid I tune into Burnley vs Manchester City on Monday night and hear Sean Dyche’s booming voice screaming “Chris, stop being a dickhead” through the speakers. I think I’ll stick with having crowd noise on, but avoid the thousands of people moaning about it on social media.
The NHS And Black Lives Matter Modifications Was A Nice Touch
Whether you like it or not, the world is in a transitional stage right now. The killing of George Floyd in America started a movement that, in all honesty, has been long overdue.
The players and officials taking a knee at Villa Park was a powerful image ahead of the Premier League restarting, and the names being changed on the players’ shirts was a nice touch too. As was the patch for the NHS workers, without whom this country would have been on it’s knees, as well as the players in the Midlands.
Just remember that if you’re bothered about people fighting for equality, you’re probably part of the problem.