Football: Will most unpredictable Premier League season produce surprise champions?

LONDON (REUTERS) – The most astonishing set of results yet, in an already very unpredictable Premier League season, and the different environment in which the English top flight is operating have raised the prospect of unexpected champions.

With Manchester City having conceded five goals at home for the first time in 438 games at the Etihad Stadium last weekend against Leicester City, champions Liverpool continued the trend of extraordinary results at Aston Villa.

In their remarkable 7-2 defeat on Sunday (Oct 4), Liverpool became the first reigning English top-flight champions to ship seven goals in a league match since Arsenal against Sunderland in 1953, but goals flowing this season are anything but abnormal.

The result came hours after Manchester United suffered their joint-heaviest Premier League defeat against Tottenham Hotspur, a 6-1 drubbing, with both games contributing to a total of 41 goals in a single Premier League round of matches.

It is just three short of the Premier League record for goals in a single game week – which was set last month. This season has been anything but predictable, but it has only enhanced the excitement.

“I want the Premier League to be a bit more like this season,” former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher told Sky Sports. “When you are talking about 95 points to win the league, it is remarkable, but in some ways it kills the Premier League.

“I’d like to go back to when winning the league was mid-80 points. It just means you lose more games and there is more excitement, and the teams who finish fourth, fifth and sixth are not as far behind.

“I think this season could be unique.”

With no fans in stadiums to add pressure as a result of Covid-19 restrictions, home advantage is not as important this season as fewer matches, on average, are being won by home teams than in any of the last five seasons.

Also, with less time to fit fixtures in, clubs are going from game to game, with little time to regroup, ensuring matches in the empty stadiums have a distinct training-ground game feel, which has helped increase the volume of goals.

Carragher believes if teams like Villa, who only just avoided relegation in the Premier League last season, can humble Liverpool like they did on Sunday, with Everton remaining top of the table, we could be in for more surprises to come.

“There was no pre-season, it is a condensed league to get all the fixtures in,” Carragher added. “There is no time for coaches to work with their teams on the training pitch to iron out defensive frailties, as we have seen with almost every team this season.

“We might get a Leicester season (they won Premier League title in 2015-16) and get a new champions, and even a strange top four, and I think that bodes well for the Premier League this season.”

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