How Could The Premier League Be Decided?
How Could We Settle The 2019/20 Premier League Season?
It looks like it’s finally going to happen. 30 Years of waiting. Steven Gerrard’s slip, 1.5cm over the goaline, that Vincent Kompany strike against Leicester, the curses from the likes of Luis Suarez, Fernando Torres and Raheem Sterling, all finally put to bed. 25 points clear at the top of the table, records smashed everywhere you look, there’s literally just one gameweek needed to confirm your first ever Premier League title. And then just like that the season is thrown into jeopardy.
This is the dilemma faced by Liverpool right now, who are acknowledged Premier League champions by pretty much everyone, but also face a challenge in actually having their trophy sent over to Merseyside. With so much uncertainty surrounding the football and sporting calendar, we thought we would take a look at the state of play in the Premier League, how it could be settled if regular play doesn’t resume, and who stands to benefit from each option.
Option 1 - Call The Whole Thing Off
Whilst it would totally rid Liverpool of a Premier League title they have absolutely deserved, the longer the postponements go on, the fairer calling the whole season off looks. With every week that passes in isolation, players lose their match fitness and overall sharpness a little bit more and there are already calls that a resumption of the league would require a mini-preseason for the players before it could all kick off again.
On top of that, having a season that eats right into the summer would cause absolute havoc with clubs and players heading into the next season, especially in European competitions if other leagues don’t follow that path. Without the recovery period of proper time off in the summer, not only would the quality of play be absolutely shocking in every league, but the risks of injuries would be through the roof.
Teams like Spurs and Arsenal would undoubtedly be the two teams to benefit the most from a null season, having fallen well below their expectations so far this year. With a void on the season, European places would be reserved for those who were in those places at the end of the last campaign, meaning it’s probably the one outcome that strips away a Champions League place from Leicester City.
Option 2 - Most Recent Standings Declared Final
Instead of writing off the whole campaign, all of its results, records and hitting a hard reset, another option could just be calling off the season now and having it finished with 29 games on the board. Leicester, who have hugely overachieved in our football betting markets would profit the most from this option with the Foxes sealing a top four spot.
Whilst of course it would be a win for the likes of Liverpool and Chelsea at the top of the table, things get a bit murky for the sides that were coming into a bit of form before the season’s cancellation. Manchester United, for example, had just beaten arch-rivals Man City, had Paul Pogba coming back from injury, were beginning to see the best from the likes of Odion Igalho, Anthony Martial and Bruno Fernandes and remain just three points off Champions League football.
The bottom end of the table is where the contention would truly start however. Just four points currently separate Aston Villa in 19th on 25 points with Brighton in 15th on 29. What’s more, Villa’s xG tally of +0.81 and xGA of +5.47 are both better than Bournemouth, Watford and West Ham above them, suggesting that they’re actually the best performing side out of the bunch.
English football might be hard hit by cutting the season short, however the storylines are even more dramatic across Europe. Whilst Liverpool are undoubtedly the Premier League winners, there is just one point between Lazio and Juventus in the Serie A, two points between Real Madrid and Barcelona in Spain and, most crucially, just six points between the top four sides in Germany.
Option 3 - Deciding Standings With Play Off Brackets
Whilst everyone is missing out on the football, it’s the teams gunning for European spots and relegation survival that will be most seriously affected by postponements/cancellations to the season. One way of helping out these teams might be through the introduction of play off brackets.
There’s just five points between Chelsea in 4th and Sheffield United in 7th, so a round-robin mini league could be set up for those four sides or, if the FA were conscious of time, a knockout tournament could be arranged to decide the final Champions League spot in the same way the EFL Championship works with its play offs.
There’s also the potential for play off brackets for the league’s relegation sides, though it becomes murkier over which sides could be involved in given how close the teams at the bottom of the Premier League and at the top of the Championship are.
Option 4 - Increasing The Premier League Participants
And then there is the argument that not fulfilling the season’s designated fixtures means that no one should be relegated. The likes of Crystal Palace, West Ham and Sunderland have all embarked on crazy runs of form in the final games of seasons gone by, showcasing how wildly the table can swing in its final ten games. Even this year Southampton, one of the clear early favourites for relegation in our football spreads, rose from 18th in the table to 9th in just 7 games, which again shows how unpredictable the table really can be and what a quick burst of form can do to a team’s position.
There is a lot of financial strain on the line for teams fighting relegation and it might turn out that the fairest thing to do is postpone relegations for a season, and expand the league for more teams.
The discussion then becomes about how many teams should be allowed to join up with the league from the Championship. The top two sides, Leeds and West Brom as things stand, would naturally go up, but would they be the only ones? Fulham are currently in third, four points ahead of Brentford in fourth and nine ahead of Bristol City just outside the Play Offs, and there would have to be a discussion around whether they receive automatic promotion or whether the Play Offs are allowed to go ahead as normal.