Nothing in 2020 makes much sense. This is not news. But we might never see a day like Sunday 4th October again: Man Utd hit for six (I watched as the odds on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to be the first Prem manager to lose his job plummeted until he was shorter than Scott Parker), then Liverpool going one better (or worse) at Villa Park. Plus West Ham stomping on in-form Leicester as David Moyes literally phoned it in.
There is no point in trying to make sense of this, because it’s happening in a bubble, and therefore has no context. We are discovering that football without fans has no meaning, and therefore no real value. It’s not just that fans are being deprived of seeing these things happen first-hand (imagine a Villa season ticket-holder’s mixed emotions yesterday), it’s sort of the opposite in fact – these crazy things are happening largely because there are no fans.
One example: no matter how bad Harry Maguire or Luke Shaw or Paul Pogba were against Tottenham, United fans inside Old Trafford would not have allowed a 6-1 capitulation. They would have used their influence – yes, fans have influence – to stir the home players, to urge them to stem the flow. As we saw also at Villa Park and the King Power Stadium, when football is played in a bubble, it is so much harder to change the course of a game. It’s a combination of players, coaching staff and fans – i.e. everyone who is there, present – who write the story of a football match. Take away any of those elements, and it all falls apart. In the end, Jurgen Klopp, realising he was powerless, sat there on a hoarding and tried to make sense of nonsense. He had to laugh.
The state of the world means that it will be a long time before stadia are full again, so us fans had better get used to this Dadaist version of the game. I would rather not – yesterday’s football was not dramatic or thrilling. It was comic, surreal, pathetic even.