The last two Premier League matches of 2020 have done a wonderful job of summing up the season so far and setting expectations for 2021, reminding us that just because the least significant bit in the Gregorian calendar gets incremented by one, we will wake up to the same world tomorrow as well.
First, Tottenham’s match against Fulham, which was supposed to take place Tuesday night, was postponed due to a COVID-19 outbreak at the West London club. The coronavirus pandemic has been affecting our daily lives, our livelihoods, and even our entertainment options since March, and is likely to keep doing so for many more months to come at the very least, even as vaccines start rolling out around the world. And that’s assuming that whatever our “new normal” will be once the spread of the disease has been truly curtailed, will be at all similar to our “old normal”.
Then, on Wednesday, defending champions and league leaders Liverpool were held to a scoreless draw at Newcastle United, which means that we enter 2021 with just ten points separating 1st place from 11th place in the table, with teams having completed anywhere from 14 to 16 games — another feature of football in a pandemic, uneven schedules! In isolation, a draw away at St James’ wouldn’t be anything significant, but it does mean that Liverpool are leading the league despite failing to win 7 of their 16 games so far, averaging just a hair of two points per game (on pace for 78 points).
The sorts of results we’re seeing in the Premier League this season certainly feel unprecedented. We always say that anyone can beat anyone in this league, but this season, that’s more than just an excuse for one-off bad results as in seasons past. It feels more like some American sports league, designed around the idea of parity with franchises and salary caps and entry drafts.
As we’ve seen over the past few weeks, that’s both a boon and a curse for a team like Chelsea. It’s fantastic that despite dropping 11 points from 15 over the past 5 games, we’re still just 7 points out of first place with over half the season still to go. At the same time, it’s immensely frustrating that we’re failing to take advantage of historically poor and inconsistent opposition throughout the league. That may be unfair on some level — and definitely on the level taken to on social media — but given our stated ambitions, the club’s modern history, and the people in charge (both of the football and the business sides of the operation), it’s tough not to be expecting more, better, and can we have it now already?
So, as we enter the time of new resolutions, here’s to being patient, understanding, and just enjoying the ride.