Football declares silly season officially open | Jack Marshall's column

Football is mad at the minute. Which is appropriate, because everything else is, too.

Friday, 23rd October 2020, 7:00 am
West Ham’s stunning last-minute equaliser (credit Matt Dunham PA Wire)

Everyday life has been altered; in Aldi everyone looks like a surgeon, gleefully dousing their hands in sanitiser and glaring at people making a break for the bananas without maintaining a 2m forcefield. Weird.

Nothing is normal and, as if moulded by pathetic fallacy, football has duly declared silly season officially open.

To give you a flavour, last weekend Spurs drew 3-3 with West Ham having been 3-0 up with nine minutes left. Southampton got their own late equaliser in their 3-3 with Chelsea. Everton and Liverpool’s mad 2-2 Merseyside derby saw one particularly egregious foul by Jordan Pickford on Virgil van Dijk breathlessly described as an ‘assault’ by some pundits.

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On the continent, Real Madrid - playing their ostensible home games at their training ground as the Santiago Bernabeu undergoes renovations - lost 1-0 to newly-promoted Cadiz, who have a playing budget less than a 10th of their opponents’. In Italy, there was a 3-4, a 2-2, two 3-2s, a 5-2, and a 4-1.

What is happening?

Occam’s Razor is a philosophical principle that says that the explanation for an occurrence which contains the fewest assumptions is most likely to be correct. In other words, the simple answer is most likely to be true.

Let’s apply this to football.

Chelsea’s manager Frank Lampard can’t coach defending and has a goalkeeper made of marzipan, and so they concede a lot of goals. The officials in the Merseyside derby popped out for biscuits and missed Pickford’s bout of brain-fade. West Ham equalised against Spurs because it was funny and the universe wanted to annoy Jose Mourinho.

The empty seats must make a difference, too. Not playing in an arena of 75,000 baying fans - fans who’ve shelled out £50 for the pleasure of watching your every move and verbally critiquing it ad nauseum whilst informing you that various elderly relatives of theirs could do far better - surely softens the stakes a smidge.

Subconsciously, players *feel* this is a weird season. Nothing is normal, and so the wacky is therefore on the cards. Aston Villa can beat the reigning Premier League champions 7-2. Man City’s Pep Guardiola can completely forget about the existence of Jamie Vardy, resulting in a 5-2 loss to Leicester. Everton can be top-of-the-table good.

Embrace it. One day we’ll look at things like Leeds 4-3 Fulham and think it was a fever dream. Perhaps it was.