Traditionally the Premier League season would start slowly and build to an exciting finish. Top teams could get away with a relatively ‘leisurely’ start to the season and then still go on to win the league or grab a vital top 4 finish to qualify for the Champions League.
This is no longer the case.
A strong start is now deemed essential for any team wanting to compete for the trophy, and bookmakers such as Betway know this better than anyone. A single loss for a top performing team in their first few games of the season can now immediately switch them from being the strong favourites to win the league to second or even third favourites to win.
‘The Game’ Is Changing
During the first decade of the Premier League there seemed to be an unwritten agreement between the teams that the first few games of the season were very much the warm-up to the real battle that would start to commence just before mid-season.
In the early 2000’s this approach started to change – Arsenal and Chelsea (under José Mourinho) started putting on the pressure earlier...and earlier in the season. The tactic paid off – with both teams bagging the league title during those years.
The ever eagle-eyed Alex Ferguson picked up on the change quickly and started to adapt his tactics too. Pre-season became the warm up to the battle for top position, and that battle now commenced as soon as the first game of the season kicked-off. Manchester United subsequently won the league 3 seasons in a row from 2007-2009.
This trend has now intensified – and is showcased by the fact that Manchester City and Liverpool have hit final point totals of 100, 98 and 99 over the last 3 seasons. Such point totals have never been seen before.
What does this all mean for the 2020/2021 Premier League season though?
There will be no room for error
It’s likely that within just the first 10 games of the season the top contenders (or potentially contender?) for the Premier League trophy will become apparent.
Over the last 10 seasons 90% of Premier League title winners in their first 10 games have had at least 4 home wins and 2 losses or less.
Also over the last 10 seasons, all Premier League title winners in their first 10 games have scored at least 20 goals and gained a minimum of 19 points.
For this season, if any team hits these targets within the first 10 games of this season – with no other teams doing so – it is likely that they will then go on to win the league.
Can we be certain?
This season has started like no other. The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in the shortest pre-season warm-up ever. Will this turn what we expect to happen on its head?
Combined with the intense end to last season this shortened pre-season could result in player exhaustion in the top teams especially mid-to-late season and/or increased risks of injury. Harry Kane, in Tottenham's recent behind the scenes documentary 'All or Nothing' complained strongly (alongside many others) that the packed Christmas schedule can result in a spike of injuries across the league...only time will tell what this shortened pre-season will do.
There is also then the additional possibility that a second lock-down and pause of the Premier League season at the wrong time could throw off the form of any would-be champions just at the wrong time. Liverpool were fortunate that lock-down came when it did during the 2019/2020 season...if it had been any earlier perhaps they may have lost their unstoppable mojo just at the wrong time.
Many already complain that long international breaks can halt a run of strong performance...another lengthy lock-down could easily have the same consequences.
Then there’s always Leicester City!
Most pundits already dismissed Leicester City from the top 4, and even top 6, in their predications before the start of this season. With 3 wins from 3, a stunning away performance against Manchester City and 12 goals under their belts already – it’s very possible that The Foxes and Jamie Vardy could be havin’ a party again this year if they carry on as they are.
At the very least they’ve certainly exposed a gaping hole in the Manchester City defence which Pep will now be desperate to plug.
There's still a long way to go to the first week of December though, when the first 10 games of the season will have been played. Right now anything can happen and the title race is very much on.