What next for Premier League’s ‘Project Restart’

Liverpool are within reach of the Premier League title, with their manager Jurgen Klopp unconcerned by playing at neutral venues. (File/AFP)
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Updated 03 June 2020

What next for Premier League’s ‘Project Restart’

  • Restart to begin with 2 matches on June 17, to ensure every side played same number of games

LONDON: The Premier League's return is just two weeks away but there are plenty of details for the 20 clubs in the English top-flight to work out before competitive action resumes on June 17.

AFP Sport looks at what is on the agenda at the latest in a series of meetings between the clubs on Thursday.

There have been squabbles over how final league standings should be decided if the season cannot be completed but clubs need a contingency arrangement if a spike in coronavirus cases wrecks their plans.

Most of the teams in the bottom half of the table are reportedly pushing for relegation to be scrapped if the season is not completed on the field.

That still seems highly unlikely, with the English Football Association and English Football League both insisting on promotion and relegation throughout the pyramid.

A points-per-game formula is the most likely option and is part of the reason why the restart will begin with two matches on June 17, to ensure every side has played the same number of games.

Once the two outstanding games — Manchester City vs. Arsenal and Aston Villa vs. Sheffield United — have been played, all 20 sides will have nine games remaining.

No dates for other matches have yet been released, but fixtures are expected to continue from where they left off in March and be crammed into just five weeks ahead of the FA Cup final on August 1.

A long layoff, little time together in contact training and a gruelling schedule mean players' bodies will be pushed to the limits.

In an attempt to minimize injuries and fatigue, world governing body FIFA has allowed leagues to temporarily change their rules to allow five substitutes.

Chelsea have also reportedly proposed increasing the number of substitutes available from seven to nine.

However, critics have suggested those changes will simply play into the hands of the bigger clubs with deeper squads.

Premier League clubs appear to have won their battle to have games played in their own grounds rather than on neutral sites.

However, the UK's national lead for football policing confirmed last week that a "small number" of fixtures will take place at neutral venues.

That is likely to include any match that could see Liverpool crowned champions for the first time in 30 years, to try and avoid crowds gathering at Anfield.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is unconcerned by playing at neutral venues, with results from four rounds of Germany's Bundesliga showing no advantage for home sides in a closed-doors environment.

"We will not have the help from the crowd but no team will have that, so where is the advantage?" Klopp told the BBC.

"Whoever we play it is the same situation, which is why I'm not too worried about it."

The use of VAR could also be dispensed with for the rest of the season should the clubs wish to further cut the number of people required for games to go ahead.

However, the Premier League's CEO Richard Masters is keen for it to remain.

"VAR has its own social-distancing issues, but we think there is a way of completing the season with VAR," Masters told Sky Sports.


Brighton boost hopes of Premier League survival

Updated 04 July 2020

Brighton boost hopes of Premier League survival

  • Saturday’s result leaves Norwich in grave danger of relegation

LONDON: Norwich manager Daniel Farke conceded his side are heading for relegation after Leandro Trossard fired Brighton to a 1-0 win at Carrow Road on Saturday.

Trossard netted in the first half to move Brighton nine points clear of the relegation zone before the bulk of the weekend’s matches.

Brighton’s second win in four games since the restart puts them in position beat the drop, but the picture is much bleaker for Norwich.

With five matches left, Norwich are seven points from safety after losing all five games following the coronavirus hiatus.

Farke knows Norwich’s chances of avoiding an immediate return to the Championship are almost over, especially with games against Chelsea and Manchester City still to come.

“It was more or less our last chance to get back in the mix and we are disappointed,” he said.

“The story of our game was the story of our season, we didn’t find the cutting edge and we then make a big mistake.

“After a few losses, we don’t have the right to make any fighting messages or to make any unrealistic claims.

“We are not naive, let’s show our pride. It is important we learn for the future. I will pick them up.”

Farke dropped Teemu Pukki and Todd Cantwell, even though the pair had scored 68 percent of his team’s goals this season.

The move was criticized by some Norwich fans, but Finland forward Pukki, who had netted 11 times this term, was without a goal in 10 games dating back to January.

Norwich started brightly with their changed lineup and Onel Hernandez fired over from long-range after an incisive break.

But Brighton wrestled back control and had a penalty appeal turned down by VAR when Trossard tumbled under pressure.

Brighton made the most of their dominant spell as Trossard struck in the 25th minute.

Aaron Mooy whipped over a low cross from the right and Trossard made a perfectly timed run to the near post, where the Belgian midfielder slotted past Tim Krul for his fourth goal of the season.

Norwich had lost all 19 Premier League games this season in which they have conceded first.

The y were the only team in the top-flight yet to pick up a point from a losing position and their frustration mounted as Hernandez miscued wide.

Brighton almost put the came beyond their reach when Mooy’s free-kick hit team-mate Dan Burn and deflected narrowly wide.

Norwich’s Josip Drmic shot straight at Mat Ryan from a good position before Farke sent on Pukki and Cantwell with 23 minutes left.

There was no lack of effort from Norwich, but their luck was out in stoppage-time when Adam Idah glanced a header against the inside of the far post and Brighton cleared the danger.