It’s been such a weird season that it’s hard to know where we stand with any given lest the ground beneath shift unexpectedly.
No other campaign has seen so many fluctuations in the public perception of Premier League teams in such a short space of time.
One week a side is supposedly fighting for top spot, the next they’ll be lucky to finish top half, and vice versa. It’s a wild ride, to say the least.
With almost half of the season now behind us, we have cast an eye over some of the results from early on in the campaign that look a bit strange to us now.
The weirdest results of the Premier League season so far:
Fulham 0-3 Arsenal
The opening weekend of the Premier League season feels like a different country now. It felt as if we had weathered the worst of the storm that is the coronavirus pandemic, football had come through the summer without too many problems, and even a second wave could be managed more easily.
Oh, what naïve souls we were. But at the time it felt okay to be optimistic for the future, and that included our football teams. Arsenal, for instance, were now almost nine months into the Mikel Arteta revolution and had already won the FA Cup and beaten league champions Liverpool in the Community Shield.
An opening day 3-0 win over promoted side Fulham only added to their sense of jollity and ebullience. Gunners fans could genuinely feel good about the season ahead and feel safe in the arms of their fashionable manager.
Oh, what naïve souls they were. In the their next 13 league matches, Arsenal won just three, scoring nine and conceding twice as many. To compound matters, it wasn’t even as if they were paying some form of sophisticated, attractive football that deemed short-term pain necessary in order to get to their end destination when things would get good. It was boring, rudimentary stuff.
— George Watts (@GwattsRants) December 13, 2020
The nadir was a 1-0 defeat to Burnley, but in the five matches since then Arsenal won three and lost just once. The ship appears to be turning yet again, but it was looking grim for the north London outfit for a while there.
As for Fulham, they couldn’t manage a win until November and looked good value for the drop. But the past two months have seen a sea change in performance level. Tosin Adarabioyo and Joachim Andersen both came in to offer a big upgrade over Tim Ream and Michael Hector at centre-back. The Cottagers had the worst defence in the opening six games, but in the following 12 gameweeks only four teams have conceded fewer goals than them.
If the two sides were to meet again right now, it would be a much closer affair.
Southampton 2-5 Spurs
Given their strong finish to the 2020/21 campaign, expectations were high for Southampton heading into the new season. The Saints started off bitterly slow, however, losing their opening two games.
The south coast outfit followed up their opening day defeat with a mauling by Tottenham Hotspur, who took full advantage of the high line set by Ralph Hasenhüttl. Son Heung-min scored four goals as he ripped the hosts’ defence to shreds, crushing any sense of optimism they will have had.
Southampton bounced back in a big way, however. Since that hammering, they have lost just twice, to the two Manchester clubs, drawn with Chelsea and beaten Liverpool. That dreadful day in September they didn’t look capable of putting in a decent performance, nevermind compete with the Big Six, but now they’re playing like one of the best coached teams in the division.
Spurs’ performance here also gave the impression that we might actually have a somewhat exciting Jose Mourinho team on our hands. But no, it was, of course, a catfish. Once the Lilywhites looked they might actually pose a challenge to the title, the manager went full Mourinho and they’ve been rather unwatchable the past couple of months. A real shame.
Aston Villa 7-2 Liverpool
By now we can confidently say that Aston Villa are quite a good team playing some really good football, who could even challenge for top four if everything goes their way. But last season they survived the drop by a one point margin and were lucky to stay in the Premier League at all.
So for them to host the champions and win 7-2 is still as mystifying now as it was back in October. It felt like the old Liverpool were playing that day, allowing the opposition a trove of chances without much resistance. It was one of those games where seemingly everything was going in for Villa.
Liverpool are not nearly as dominant as they were last season, but they did bounce back from that shock to get their title defence back on track. In the following ten games they had the second best record in the league, going undefeated and conceding just one more goal over that stretch than they did during that humiliation.
The Reds are currently enduring a sticky patch, having failed to win their last three league matches. But one thing we know for sure is that they are nowhere near as bad a team as they looked that night.
Man United 1-6 Spurs
If Ole is at the wheel, then the car went careening off the road into a ravine back in October when Tottenham put six past his Manchester United team at Old Trafford. It was the fourth time they had ever lost a Premier League match by a five goal margin and the second time they had lost on a 6-1 scoreline.
At that point it did feel as if the Solskjaer show was coming to an end, while Jose Mourinho was leading his Spurs side on their merry way to bigger and better things. But time has shown that not to be the case.
Man United, who had a shortened preseason due to their European exploits in the last campaign, eventually found their rhythm and are now enjoying the best run of form of any team in the Premier League – last night’s win over Burnley seeing them top the table. Spurs, meanwhile, have fallen back into the pack after being touted as potential title challengers.