If you had to use just one word to describe the start of the 2020/21 Premier League season, I think that word would be 'goals'. We have had goals, and my God, have we had a lot of them. I can't ever remember a season starting in this fashion. Every game seems to be a thriller, with incidents and end to end football on show for the full 90 minutes (well if you don't count West Brom vs Burnley). It's truly incredible, and making for exhilarating viewing. It's difficult to pinpoint one exact reason for this, but I think there's an obvious set of contributing factors.
First and foremost, the lack of crowds is most definitely playing a HUGE part. Players are playing with less pressure and perhaps more freedom without fans in the stadium, which is leading to more attacking and free flowing football, which also means that more defensive mistakes are being made - particularly in regards to playing out from the back. The combination of more attacking freedom and more defensive lapses is resulting in the large majority of games ending up with at least three goals. I strongly believe fans should be let back into stadiums, but the fact of the matter is that when fans return, goals are going to dry up to at least some extent. That's why I go against people who say, 'let fans back in to see these goals'. Yes, fans should return, but using the number of goals as a reason doesn't add up to me.
Another factor has got to be the the quality of defences in the Premier League. Defending in this league has become an absolute joke, with most centre backs being pretty average. I mean, Harry Maguire is captain of Manchester United, Davinson Sanchez and Eric Dier are regulars for Tottenham while Chelsea have 36-year-old Thiago Silva in defence with Kepa Arrizabalaga in goal. That says it all really. It's so tough to find top class defenders nowadays who actually want to defend and not just play out from the back, and as a result, teams are looking leakier in defence. To be fair though, it looks like Arsenal have found a gem in Gabriel Magalhaes, so the players are out there. But maybe teams are simply looking for a different style of defenders...
And that leads me onto my next point. The way teams are playing football, they are hardly looking to defend properly anymore. It's all about playing out from the back, and playing good looking football. Look at Bayern Munich. They won the Champions League playing an all-action brand. Their high-line was unbelievable. They encouraged teams to attack them. There were ways to score past Bayern. Look how Liverpool started this season. Same high line. Conceded three against Leeds, and seven against Aston Villa. The way football is being played means teams are conceding more, and this is beginning to happen with not just the top teams, but smaller teams too. Brighton under Graham Potter and Southampton under Ralph Hasenhuttl for example. They're playing great football and are really attractive teams, but at the risk of conceding goals. That's what modern football is now. Gone are the days of the Sam Allardyces and Tony Pulises. That is simply a thing of the past.
Last but not least; the so-called smaller teams are beginning to spend a lot of money on attacking talent, with teams towards the bottom of the table now possessing lots of attacking firepower. A good example is Villa. A side who were so close to relegation last season, now contain Jack Grealish, John McGinn, Ross Barkley and £35m man Ollie Watkins. Not too bad at all, especially considering they have won every Premier League this season. West Ham have a front line containing Michail Antonio, the impressive Jarrod Bowen, Pablo Fornals and now new signing Said Benrahma. Crystal Palace bought Eberechi Eze, Newcastle signed Callum Wilson, while the Saints have Danny Ings who just cannot stop scoring. Everton signed the mercurial James Rodriguez and have Dominic Calvert-Lewin up front who is in stunning form. There's just so much firepower in the league now, and defences are struggling to contain them.
Whatever the reason is for all these goals, long may it continue. It's making for an exceptionally exciting season and every game is just so unpredictable. With Virgil van Dijk out for what is likely to be the whole season, that has added to the unpredictability of what is to come. The title race has been thrown wide open, and we may just be in for one of the most exciting Premier League campaigns to date.