This season has not only been the longest in the history of English football, but it might also be the maddest.
Having the entire European football calendar interrupted by a pandemic was not something anyone had considered at the beginning of the season, making it immediately the strangest occurrence in a sporting sense in living memory. Not since the Second World War had football been forced to stop due to forces outside of its control.
Thankfully football was able to continue again, albeit without fans in the grounds, another altogether strange thing we’ve had to get used to in recent months. But that’s just one of a series of mad moments we’ve seen this season, all of which sprinkled some added drama into the Premier League this past year.
Five of the Premier League’s maddest moments in 2019/20:
Xhaka tells off his own fans
It’s not often you see a club’s own supporters boo their captain. Equally, it’s rare to find a captain telling their fans to “f*ck off”. But that’s what happened last October while Granit Xhaka was being substituted off the pitch against Crystal Palace at the Emirates Stadium.
The remarkable scene was a microcosm of Arsenal’s deep rooted issues both on the pitch and behind the scenes. Manager Unai Emery was sacked just a month later following a shocking start to the campaign which effectively killed their top four aspirations, while the club’s muddled recruitment strategy and deteriorating finances have entwined to create a deeply imbalanced squad.
Should Granit Xhaka remain @Arsenal captain?
— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) October 28, 2019
This moment appeared to be a nadir at least and not a spectre of worse things to come. The Gunners installed former midfielder Mikel Arteta as head coach, performances improved over the course of the season, and they ended the season with a trophy. Xhaka even recovered his reputation, becoming an important part of Arteta’s side as they managed FA Cup glory.
Swings and roundabouts.
Guardiola ungracious in defeat
Pep Guardiola really doesn’t like losing. And to be fair to him, who amongst us does? We all love winning and hate losing. But when the Manchester City manager loses a football match, he really cannot hide his displeasure.
The Catalan’s bid to win a third consecutive Premier League title was looking rocky by the time his team faced Liverpool at Anfield in November, but it was truly crushed when the final whistle was blown. The hosts won 3-1 during a dominant display, but it was Guardiola’s actions on the sideline that caught all of the attention.
City were denied two penalty claims during the match, which prompted him to turn to the fourth official and scream “twice” at the top of his lungs several times before shouting into the heavens.
When someone asks how many weeks we have to wait until the return of the Premier League…? pic.twitter.com/hlqb72FRl4
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) November 11, 2019
It didn’t end there, though. After the match when the perfunctory handshakes were taking place, Guardiola approached the officials and thanked them profusely for the job they had done. Entirely sincerely, of course.
Pep Guardiola sarcastically thanks the referee at full-time ? pic.twitter.com/l6vr29HaW9
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) November 10, 2019
Jose’s mood change
Jose Mourinho has gotten on everybody’s nerves at one point or another, but he can also be highly entertaining, whether he means to be or not.
The Portuguese tactician got one over his old foe Guardiola when his Tottenham Hotspur side defeated Man City 2-0 at home. So he was in a good mood was Jose. Laughing, joking, smiling – just loving life really.
Then his assistant informed him Raheem Sterling was on a yellow card and in danger of being sent off following a bad challenge. One second he’s jovially laughing away, the next he’s sprinting like Batman on the way to the Joker’s lair to complain vociferously to the fourth official just a few short yards away.
Jose Mourinho's mood change will forever be iconic pic.twitter.com/4SI8PeRtuv
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) February 3, 2020
So much to love about the entire scene, particularly the deliberate manner in which he closes his bottle and the official slowly backing away almost immediately like a sober man trying to avoid a pub fight, which will surely feature heavily in this season’s episode of Premier League Years.
Sheffield United’s ghost goal
The first Premier League match back after lockdown was weird enough without any fans present in the stadium, but Sheffield United‘s trip to Villa Park featured one of the weirdest football moments in recent memory.
Since being brought in several years ago, goal line technology has worked seamlessly, removing any doubt over whether or not the ball crosses the line. Unfortunately for the Blades, they became the first side on the receiving end of a mistake from the Goal Decision System.
As seen below, the ball clearly crosses the line following Aston Villa goalkeeper Orjan Nyland’s stumble after catching an Ollie Norwood cross and carries it into his own net. Apparently the Hawk-Eye cameras were “significantly occluded” by the ‘keeper and surrounding defenders. I’m sure Chris Wilder was consoled by that explanation after it cost his team victory.
— Football Faithful (@FootyFaithful_) June 17, 2020
It a very real effect on the table too, as Villa finished one point outside the drop zone, just ahead of Bournemouth. The Birmingham outfit would not have stayed up had the goal been called, but then again they were also controversially denied a goal against Crystal Palace which would have earned them a point.
Lampard blows a fuse
One benefit of football with spectators is that you get to hear the players and managers talking and shouting. It doesn’t actually reveal very much, but the exception came when Liverpool hosted Chelsea in July.
The sideline cameras caught Lampard in a confrontation with Jurgen Klopp which will surely go down as one of the all-time great manager meltdowns. That didn’t provide a whole lot of context, but thankfully someone in the stadium filmed the incident from the stand:
Big fan of Milner chuckling at Lampard while he goes absolutely ham on the sideline.pic.twitter.com/G4c2TzkH6h
— Ste McGovern (@TheNoveltyAct) July 23, 2020
Lampard is obviously not happy with the free-kick that was just given (and subsequently scored by Alexander-Arnold), and is unhappy with Pep Lijnders for not sitting down. Klopp informs his counterpart that his assistant is in fact sitting down.
Lampard says to Lijnders “it’s not a f*cking foul, I’m not asking you”, before telling Klopp “you can f*ck off as well.” The highlight comes when the Blues boss says “you have your party later on, giving it the f*cking big ‘un, f*ck off.”
"I am not asking you…" ?
Frank Lampard was involved in a heated row with the Liverpool bench on Wednesday – and then saw Trent Alexander-Arnold smash one in to the top corner ?pic.twitter.com/HPjBLLKWbH
— Sky Sports (@SkySports) July 23, 2020
Afterwards, the Blues boss tried to explain the confrontation by referring to the behaviour of the Liverpool bench, warning them not to “get too arrogant with” winning the league. Just an altogether incredible moment that we would never have otherwise seen so intimately.
Honourable Mention: Newcastle United’s Matt Ritchie calling an assistant referee a “wee dick”.