VAR flip-flops and white tuxedos: gazing into the Premier League crystal ball | Barry Glendenning

The return of crowds

Having ordered the working public back to their offices despite the inherent risks involved, the government insist Premier League fans return to their stadiums even though many of them no longer wish to go. Having been locked out for more than six months, many supporters arrive at the conclusion they were only ever going out of habit or because they’d been institutionalised and realised during their time off there are more productive uses of one’s leisure time than paying through the nose to stand in the rain and shout angrily at their team’s on-field incompetence alongside thousands of like-minded individuals. Of course not all football fans are disillusioned and Chelsea’s flock to Stamford Bridge to run the rule over their raft of expensive summer signings and see how Frank Lampard plans to accommodate Mason Mount, Ross Barkley, Billy Gilmour, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Kai Havertz, Timo Werner, Tammy Abraham, Olivier Giroud, Christian Pulisic and Hakim Ziyech in his team to face Liverpool. He pulls it off, with Abraham winning the man of the match award for his string of splendid saves.

Fixture congestion

The delayed start to the new season means tedious griping and grumbling about fixture congestion began before a ball was kicked, with Tottenham most badly affected and facing the prospect of eight games in three competitions in 18 days. Not usually one to complain, choosing instead to bear life’s slings and arrows with the good grace and serenity for which his name has long been a byword, even the saintly patience of José Mourinho is tested to its limits. As Harry Kane, Son Heung-min, Lucas Moura and Jack Clarke succumb to a series of strains, pulls and niggles, the Tottenham manager announces at a press conference that the time has finally come for Troy Parrott to shine. The air is rent blue with expletives when reporters remind him the teenage striker is out on loan to Millwall.

The dissatisfaction of Newcastle fans

Having gone into the summer harbouring genuine hopes of a Saudi takeover that would lead to the signing of exotic global superstars such as Robert Lewandowski, Kalidou Koulibaly and Marco Verratti, long-suffering Newcastle fans emerged from with little more to cheer about than the arrival of Jeff Hendrick on a free. Like Bruno Fernandes at Manchester United, the former Burnley midfielder proves the missing piece of the jigsaw and Newcastle sweep all before them with a swashbuckling brand of football not witnessed at St James’s Park since the Kevin Keegan era, while the much maligned Joelinton surges clear at the summit of the Premier League top goalscorers list. Resolutely unimpressed, Geordies continue to call for Steve Bruce’s head, pointing out that the more successful their club becomes the less likely Ashley is to sell up.

Newcastle fans protest against Mike Ashley’s ownership.

Newcastle fans protest against Mike Ashley’s ownership. Photograph: Michael Zemanek/BPI/Shutterstock

You’re not on Sky Sports

Following their decision to cut costs by getting rid of several veteran Soccer Saturday panellists and binning off talking heads programmes the Sunday Supplement, the Debate and Goals On Sunday, Sky Sports chiefs elect to trim even more financial fat by cancelling the rest of their discussion programmes and replacing them with that two-minute long Micah Richards laugh compilation clip playing on an endless loop instead. The decision sparks outrage on Twitter, with no end of Firstname Longnumber “proud dad” types boasting the cross of St George in their profiles accusing the network of craven box-ticking. By way of response, Richards guffaws loudly in the face of their stupidity.

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Amazon primed

Following Mourinho’s show-stealing, scenery-chewing, bravura performance in All Or Nothing, early footage is leaked from Amazon Prime’s latest fly-on-the-wall documentary, Seventh Heaven. Despatched to Merseyside and tasked with peeking behind the curtain to chronicle Everton’s attempt to regain their rightful place just outside the top six, the camera crew discover an unlikely star in Jordan Pickford. Contrary to the public perception of the England goalkeeper as an excitable, shouty, chest-thumping Mackem man-child, he is revealed to be sensitive, complex and an accomplished lounge-room crooner who devotes his spare time to serenading elderly residents in local care homes while dressed in a white tuxedo.

Jordan Pickford (pictured without white tuxedo)

Jordan Pickford (pictured without white tuxedo). Photograph: Paul Currie/BPI/Shutterstock

Increasingly VARsical scenes

November’s top-of-the-table meeting between Liverpool and Manchester City is hailed as one of the greatest games in Premier League history, a tightly fought nine-goal white-knuckle ride featuring several goal-of-the-season contenders, a mass brawl, three dismissals and a bad-tempered touchline row between Jürgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola. Eschewing the main talking points, BT Sport devote their entire post-match analysis to a forensic debate over why the video assistant referee failed to point out that a throw-in awarded to Liverpool six minutes before they went one up should have gone the other way. With the studio pundits deadlocked after a long and tedious debate, former referee and resident expert Peter Walton says VAR should intervene in such a scenario, before changing his mind and deciding that, actually, no, it shouldn’t.