DANNY MURPHY: There will be no fans but I’m sure we will see REAL Premier League football… suggesting otherwise is an insult to the professionalism of modern players
- We should see the same ferocity in the Premier League as normal in the restart
- Modern players made it through talent and mental strength, not crowd cheers
- However, factors like summer heat could inhibit pressing teams like Liverpool
The Premier League is coming back. It won’t be the spectacle we have been used to — no goal will be met with a roar from 50,000 fans — but to suggest it won’t be real football is an insult to the professionalism of the modern-day player.
I’m confident we will see the same levels of intensity and skill as we did before lockdown. TV viewers may take a little time to get accustomed to empty stadiums but I don’t think it’ll have as much impact on the players as people think.
Remember, most of them will have played in front of small crowds starting out at youth and reserve level. They made it because of their talent and inner mental strength, not because of loud cheers from the sidelines.
The Premier League returns on June 17 but it will be nothing like we are normally used to
Games should be played at the same ferocious levels of intensity, these are professionals
The remaining weeks of the season will be different, but still very watchable. Even if players take a week to catch up to fitness levels, by match three they’ll be covering the same distances as earlier in the season. It won’t only be pride driving them on. There is a lot at stake for nearly every team, whether it be challenging for Europe or trying to avoid relegation.
That desire to achieve won’t be altered by a change in volume or having canned noise piped through the tannoy rather than actual fans present.
You can get caught up by the emotion created by a full house — as I was when sent off for Liverpool against Manchester United. There is also an element of playing to the crowd when players argue with referees or dive for free-kicks.
The silence in stadiums could mean there is more concentration on individual performances
In a quieter environment when indiscretions can be more easily identified, it might encourage some players to concentrate on the football.
Of course, I’d prefer supporters in the stadium. I was a critic of VAR from the outset because I thought it detracted from the communal moment of joy when a goal was scored.
But a lack of atmosphere won’t have as much impact on games as you think. That hunger to win tackles or score goals comes from within. You love the adulation when something comes off but it’s not the fans who make your legs move in the first place.
As for the viewers, maybe they’ll grow to see the game in a different way. On Match of the Day when there are multiple games during Saturday afternoons, we have a bank of screens with the volume down.
THE TOP AND BOTTOM OF PROJECT RESTART
ASTON VILLA V SHEFFIELD UNITED – JUNE 17 6pm
Danny Murphy’s verdict: There will be no easing back in for Villa because this is their game in hand and defeat would make the prospect of relegation very real. We know Sheffield United can keep possession well and they go to Villa Park itching to pop the ball about. In contrast, Villa have to get everything right: when to press, when to drop, being disciplined. John McGinn’s return from injury is a boost because he makes things happen in the middle of the park. Still, Villa will do well to get any kind of result.
MANCHESTER CITY V ARSENAL – JUNE 17 8:15pm
Danny Murphy’s verdict: If City slip up, Liverpool could win the title at Everton on Sunday. But I can’t see it. As the best possession team in Europe, they’ll have no problem rediscovering their rhythm. When Kevin De Bruyne is on the ball I just wait to be wowed but Pep Guardiola has gifted, technical players all over the pitch. The top four looks beyond Mikel Arteta’s side and while he will have inside knowledge on how Guardiola prepares, the gap looks too great for Arsenal to cause an upset.
It makes you trust your eyes without the bias of hearing crowd noise, usually for the home team. It’ll be hard for armchair fans to get used to at first but people will adjust. It is a case of embracing what we have rather than worrying about what we don’t have.
People may question why my view differs from Sheffield United striker Oli McBurnie who claimed he’s ‘10 times the player when fans are there.’ With respect, that’s not right. It is normal to love your supporters when things are going well and you are appreciated, which is what McBurnie was trying to say, but the reality is you don’t become a Premier League player without being able to motivate from within.
It’s useful that Premier League players have already seen the Bundesliga resume. They have seen close marking and rugged challenges without players feeling unsafe or spreading the virus.a
It has also been a useful guide for managers. We should expect more rotation than usual given each team will have to squeeze nine games into a short period of time. Five substitutions are allowed and they will be used.
The Bundesliga’s successful resumption has been a good guide for Premier League players
I do think players will be mindful of the language they use and I’m sure there will be reminders that swear words will be picked up clearly and carry into TV viewer’ living rooms. You don’t need to yell profanities to be aggressive on the pitch.
Spitting is a harder one. It sounds unpleasant but often clearing out phlegm is to ease the air channels. People might think that sounds ridiculous but unless you have played the game at a high level, you can’t appreciate how blocked you can get.
The weather will be warmer in June and July than during normal seasons. I tend to think that will work in favour of possession-based teams like Manchester City because it’s much harder to chase the ball when it’s 28 degrees Celsius.
Conversely, it will also suit teams who defend deep and counter-attack. The weather didn’t affect my Fulham team because we conserved energy. Roy Hodgson is now manager at Crystal Palace and they play a similar way.
Jurgen Klopp’s pressing game could be weakened by the intensity of the summer heat
Teams who like to press will have to recognise you can’t do it non-stop in baking heat. But managers like Jurgen Klopp are smart enough to adapt. The way Liverpool have paced themselves this season is one of the reasons they are clear at the top.
For very fit players, summer football won’t be a problem — but I feel for their opponents. Would you want to mark Jordan Henderson on a hot day? The conditions won’t stop him, we saw in the Russia World Cup that he is in phenomenal shape.
It will be great to see so many players back on the pitch after injury — Paul Pogba, Aymeric Laporte, Marcus Rashford, David Brooks, Harry Kane, Son Heung-Min, John McGinn among them.
Of those, Rashford is the one I am most excited to see and I believe could make the biggest difference. If he hits the form he showed before injuring his back in January, Manchester United can qualify for the Champions League. He was in the best form of his life.
Welcome back Marcus, welcome back football.
Three cheers for Alex
I was delighted to see my Crewe Alexandra promoted to League One last week. I started my career at Gresty Road and have never forgotten the impact the club had on my career.
Crewe have been through some really tough times and fans haven’t had a lot to shout about so it’s great to see them able to enjoy a bit of success.
It’s nice to see some talented young players from the academy given their chance — such as Ryan Wintle, Charlie Kirk and Tom Lowery.
Time will tell if they end up playing at a higher level like so many Crewe old boys but, for now, well done to everyone at Alex.
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