Football Just Peaked - Is it all Downhill from here?
London rivals Fulham and West Ham, battling it out in Craven Cottage on Boxing Day 2010.
On 18th December 2022, football may have peaked (at least for the foreseeable future). Now, Messi fans will never lose a debate, the Three Lions’ fans will enter their 57th year of hurt, and the seasonal football fans will enter dormancy. However, we perennial football viewers will tune into Premier League action on the 26th of December. The question is, can the Premier League bring anywhere near the excitement that the World Cup final brought us, or will post-World Cup depression send football fans into melancholy. We just experienced the World Cup’s ‘Aguero moment’ and before we could even take a breather, we have the Premier League’s most awaited fixtures – those of Boxing Day.
But are these Boxing Day fixtures significant anymore? Normally, the World Cup is in the summer, somewhat of a conclusion to what would have already been an incredible season. The domestic leagues would have concluded, followed by the dramatic European competitions and then, after a couple of weeks or so, the World Cup would have been a fitting finale. For a good month or so after the World Cup, top tier football will escape into the backdrop and give us some time to reignite our football fever. Only then will the next domestic season slowly start up again. By mid-August, we would be starving for the ‘beautiful game’ and the new season would be a fresh start.
Now, we are resuming Premier League action, with the biggest football game in four years not even being ten days old. If the Champions League concluded mid-season, would the rest of it really matter? Probably not, and it feels quite the same, if not worse, with the World Cup finishing in December. Beyond that, Messi winning the World Cup felt like a victory for every Argentinean, every neutral, and basically everyone else who is not French or a CR7 fan. Now, how do we go back and support Chelsea, or Man United or Liverpool, who are all battling it out for a measly top four.
But I have hope. Maybe when I turn on that Brentford vs Spurs game on Boxing Day, the tension of a London Derby, the Brentford faithful in loud voice, the laudable ‘non-FOX’ commentators, and the destiny of my FPL team might bring back the drama and excitement of the beautiful game. I do not expect it to match or better the drama of the World Cup, but I do expect it to be entertaining in a different sense. The Premier League broadcast team will have a lot on their hands to make it as big of an occasion as possible, but they might just be able to do it. After all, they have played the lead role in making the Premier League the most-watched Sports league in the world.
While we do rather unwillingly (or willingly) shift our focus back to club football, it is worth noting some of the significant details in the Premier League that may have gone unnoticed in the buildup to the World Cup. First of all, Arsenal are five points clear at the top. Unfortunately for them, ‘tis the time of year when many great teams collapse after a promising start to the season. Man City are on their tail in second place, ready to make them pay for any future failures. Quite surprisingly, Newcastle are in third place, on the back of five successive wins. They will be looking to maintain their rank, clinch European football, and mark the beginning of a new era. Spurs are in fourth position, followed by United and Liverpool. Erik ten Hag seems to have turned things around at United as they are still in top-four contention, while Klopp's Liverpool seem to have fallen off their perch this season. Chelsea sit in eighth place after ownership changes, a disappointing start to the season and the sacking of Thomas Tuchel. Meanwhile, Brighton and Fulham are exceeding expectations, sitting in seventh and ninth place, respectively. Despite a promising Europa League campaign last season, West Ham have declined drastically – just one point off the drop zone. Nottingham Forest, Southampton, and Wolves make up the bottom three, but it is too early to call their downfall. Southampton have regularly escaped relegation in recent years, while Wolves, a promising mid-table side, are sure to find a solution.
Starting with Boxing Day 2022, I am sure the remainder of this Premier league season will bring plenty of drama, entertainment, and reasons to love this great sport. However, can anything oust or even match the significance of the World Cup final that took place just seven days ago?