Premier League return looms with fixtures release
Most non-football fans will often make a comment every time the new season rolls into view that it barely seems like the previous one has ended. That feeling has never been truer as the Premier League fixture list was announced for the 2020/21 season this week. While many will change dates, thanks to clashes with other fixtures, for broadcasting or for the fact that some teams were still playing in European competition less than 10 days ago. Everything about the typical English domestic football calendar, at least the start of the season, has been turned upside down because of the Premier League’s earlier insistence on playing the remainder of the season. If they had taken the route that France, Scotland and many others had taken to curtail the season, they could have had the new season up and running at a more normal date, rather than the slightly cramped schedule that lies ahead.
Many questions will be answered over the coming season. Will Leeds be able to play the football that got them back into the top flight after 16 years away? Can Marcelo Bielsa inspire his players to keep their performances at that level across a Premier League season? Can Liverpool and Manchester City maintain their gap to the rest of the league, even as Chelsea and Manchester United do their level best to build on their positive previous campaigns, close the gap and bring themselves back into contention? Can the three promoted clubs keep themselves in the big time and not drop straight back through the trap door? Even though they will be no fans at the grounds for the time being, this promises to be one of the most intriguing Premier League seasons for quite a while.
PSG’s megastars fail at the last
Last Sunday saw the Champions League final played. It was about three months later than it should have been, but that’s a phrase we’ve become depressingly used to hearing over the last eight months. Paris Saint-Germain were looking to cap off a project that had taken nine years, four managers and over €1 billion in transfers, this was PSG’s time to claim the prize that had eluded them all this time. The Champions League. The greatest club competition in the world. One that like the One Ring in The Lord of the Rings can become an obsession for club owners. It took Roman Abramovich nine years to finally get his hands on the ‘big ear’ trophy and that was after the most extraordinary run where Chelsea really should have been knocked out at least twice and really should have lost the final. PSG had never reached the final of the Champions League before, but had looked impressive in the competition since the restart. It was just unfortunate for them that they happened to come up against a Bayern Munich side that are absolutely flying at the moment. Ever since Hansi Flick took over, Bayern have been nigh untouchable. They haven’t lost a game of any description since the turn of the year. And ultimately, the stars of Paris could not surpass the challenge in front of them.
Bayern are the first team to win every single game on their way to lifting the trophy in the history of the Champions League. More than that though, Bayern have a core of players who impart the identity and thinking of the club onto the other players. No matter who they bring in to manage or the players they bring in, PSG always feels like a collection of players brought together put into a system to play and sent out. Bayern feels like a team from top to bottom. They believe in the manager, his system and the methods of trying win games, even if they are slightly scrappy as the final was. Paris didn’t have that to fall back on. Neymar and Kylian Mbappe weren’t quite at their best, not for lack of trying. Neymar covered more ground than all but one of his teammates. Mbappe was also just coming back from injury, otherwise he would have definitely converted at least one of the chances he had during the game. But great players do often perform below-average in major finals. Maradona did not play amazingly well in the 1986 World Cup final, but Argentina still won the game. Bayern were able to graft out a win in spite of their top players not necessarily performing at the height of their abilities.
What this has shown to me is that every side, if they want to compete for major trophies need to pay close attention to their youth setups. Clubs need some players in their setup that have been with the club since an early age. They will pass that over to the newer signings and will make a connection with the fans. This season has been one of the best to watch for me as a Chelsea fan because we are finally seeing all of these really promising players who have worked for years to finally play for the club. As a fan you are filled with a huge sense of pride when players come through the academy and establish themselves in the first team. PSG don’t have that. And its something I think they really need to look into if they want to be successful outside of France.
Trump’s takeover of the Republican party is complete
So, its convention season over in America, as the US gears up for one of the most unusual presidential elections in a very long time. That’s partly because of the circumstances of COVID and how it has impacted how we would go about our everyday lives. That includes these conventions, which are usually sprawling events with huge crowds as the delegates finally vote on who their party’s nominee is going to be. That has had to change this year. Both conventions are taking place mostly online, although the Republicans have insisted on holding some real in-person business with social distancing and masks compulsory. The speakers for the Democratic convention were varied across the political spectrum of the party to even some Republicans who have crossed the divide to vote for Biden. And while there wasn’t a whole lot on actual policy from Biden or Harris, there was an actual spread of speakers from inside and outside the party.
When we then look across the table at the line-up of speakers, it is utterly dominated by members of Trump’s family. In addition to his speech, his wife, both his daughters, two of his sons and one of his son’s wives will all speak. There will be no differing opinions, no dissenting voices. This will be a competition to see who can suck up to Trump the most, be it potential political heirs or his actual heirs. This is a family soap opera being played out on one of the biggest political stages in America. It is ridiculous. Trump has got rid of any dissent left in the Republican party. I don’t know how and I don’t know why, but the Republicans have lost any credibility they may have had left. Their rolling over of the party to this president, a man who openly promotes conspiracy theories, opens racial divides wide open and wipes his hands clean of any responsibility for the handling of the coronavirus pandemic, while coming up with fun little racist nicknames for it is utterly shameful. Not until they fully exorcise his influence from anything that they do or say, can they ever claim to be the right party for America.