Last weekend’s lopsided results, shocking upsets, and controversial finishes are a prelude to what will be an unpredictable season
Last weekend was the first real glimpse of a phenomenon I had anticipated this season. The simplest way to describe it is widespread footballing chaos: wild results, goals galore, upsets, penalties awarded after the full-time whistle had already been blown. The unpredictability— much like the pandemic that continues to dictate how the sport is administered across Europe (many countries continue to play without fans)—might be around longer than we think.
A brief, but by no means complete, summation of the weekend’s havoc: West Brom raced to a 3-0 lead at home to Chelsea in a game that ended 3-3; each of the top five teams from last season’s Bundesliga campaign lost, most notably Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich; Manchester United was awarded what was essentially a post-match penalty kick to beat Brighton 3-2; Manchester City was hammered by Leicester City 5-2; and Atlético Madrid scored six goals in their season-opening win over Granada, which is one more goal than they scored in their first five games to start last season. Two clubs chose not to partake in the drama: Liverpool maintained its perfect start to the Premier League season by beating Arsenal 3-1 after an incredible first-half display, and Barcelona beat Villarreal 4-0, scoring all of their goals before halftime.
Wild, right? Personally, I had a sense of calm through it all. To be clear, I’m sympathetic to the emotional roller coaster some fans must have felt—only a monster couldn’t empathize with those forced to watch referee decisions against their teams be microscopically analyzed over and over, like some form of perverse emotional torture. The never-ending dose of VAR-inspired controversy and shockingly lopsided results left me grinning maniacally from the comfort of my own sofa, like some kind of footballing Hawthorne Abendsen, and saying to myself, “It’s happening. It’s really happening!” Continue reading