Goals galore in Premier League, but the outlook for fans is gloomy
When you get down to the basics in football, it is goals that people want to see and that’s what we were treated to in the Premier League last week. The clubs outdid themselves with a record 44 goals being scored in the 10 games.
The only problem, but it is a very big one, was that there were no fans in the stadiums to witness this entertainment.
Even worse, because of the coronavirus threat, the UK government announced it could be another six months before fans are allowed into the grounds at English league clubs.
It is not an exaggeration that this news could sound the death knell for some clubs in the lower leagues who had been promised that some spectators would be allowed into grounds from Oct 1.
But let’s savour the good news first. It is remarkable that with all the restrictions players are subjected to in their “bubble,” they should come up with a veritable harvest of goals, beating the 43 scored in February 2011.
Three games featured seven goals — Everton 5 WBA 2; Leeds 4 Fulham 3; Southampton 2 Spurs 5; while another had six, Leicester 4 Burnley 2.
It is hard to explain where this goal glut suddenly came from.
Admittedly there was some very poor defending and the ridiculous new handball rule also contributed to a couple of goals.
We are going to see a lot of silly handball penalties this season unless the authorities are brave enough to amend the law. Note, this is not a VAR problem, it’s a rules problem.
But for all the defensive frailties, we must applaud the goalscorers who made it so entertaining for fans watching TV.
Stealing the limelight was Tottenham’s South Korean striker Son
Heung-Min who rattled in four goals in spectacular fashion, with a little matter of four assists from Harry Kane, who also helped himself to one goal.
Son’s sheer pace and precise finishing was quite stunning.
There was another hat-trick at Goodison Park where Dominic Calvert-Lewin banged in three in less dramatic fashion, but nonetheless important goals.
Brighton’s Neal Maupay netted a brace in the Seagulls’ surprisingly comfortable 3-0 away win at Newcastle.
It is possible the very lack of fans has eased the pressure on the players and especially those away from home.
In the first two weeks nine teams have let in three or more goals in a game while playing at home, including Liverpool and Manchester United.
Another refreshing statistic is a noticeable absence of any drawn games, although that is unlikely to last.
While it is a Premier League record, the 44 goals is not the highest-ever in the top flight.
That honour goes to the most famous Boxing Day in English football — Dec 26, 1963 — when an amazing 66 goals were scored in the 10 top flight games (the old First Division).
Just imagine switching on the radio at 5pm to listen to the football results that Saturday and hearing the following:
Blackpool 1 Chelsea 5; Burnley 6 Man U 1; Fulham 10 Ipswich 1; Leicester 2 Everton 0; Liverpool 6
Stoke 1; Nottingham Forest 3 Sheff U 3; Sheff Wed 3 Bolton 0; West Brom 4 Tottenham 4; West Ham 2 Blackburn 8; and Wolves 3 Aston Villa 3.
Inevitably there were some fine individual performances highlighted by Fulham’s Graham Leggat scoring four, including a hat-trick in three-minutes.
Two other players notching four goals were Liverpool’s Roger Hunt on his way to 31 goals for the season, and Andy Lockhead of Burnley.
At Upton Park, both Fred Pickering and Andy McEvoy claimed hat-tricks for Blackburn.
The high scores on that day were partly attributed to muddy pitches, something we can certainly rule out in last week’s matches in which the playing surfaces were pristine.
But enough of those wonderful memories and back to the grim reality of 2020.
For all the brilliant goals, football needs fans and it looks like spectators at matches is something that will not happen in England until next March at the earliest.
The Premier League expressed disappointment at the government’s decision and warned of a “devastating impact on clubs and their communities.”
You can only imagine what effect it will have on the smaller clubs. Rick Parry, chairman of the Football League, which represents the 72 clubs below the top flight called the government’s decision “deeply frustrating.”
BBC sports editor Dan Roan commented that the UK government’s decision “will infuriate sports governing bodies that insist it is much safer for fans to be in a highly regulated, socially distanced, often open-air venues or stadiums, than watching the TV in a pub.”
However, it can be argued that if fans could attend games they would mingle in pubs before and after the match.
Meanwhile, after all the excitement of the past two weeks, what’s the betting that this weekend we will be subjected to a goal drought and bore draws.
Who knows? Football can be a funny old game, even without spectators.
Tottenham’s Son Heung-Min scored four goals against Southampton.