Premier League: Return of fans and Ronaldo puts a smile on our faces

Many happy returns in the Premier League, as John Roycroft casts an eye over the early season events across the water.
Premier League: Return of fans and Ronaldo puts a smile on our faces

Brentford fans in the stands during the Premier League match at Villa Park, Birmingham. The return of fans has been one of the most welcome sights in the new season.

We've had our return to Premier League matches, the somewhat frustrating international break for the World Cup qualifiers, and the first round of the Champions League. So it's as good a time as any to see the state of play and what's surprising and welcome in the game at the moment.

First of all, it has to be said, it is great to have football back in front of full-houses. Whatever the rights and wrongs of it from a medical and pandemic point of view, it has been fantastic, even on TV, to experience the atmosphere of football in front of real fans rather than the canned crowd noises from last year's coverage.

This was exemplified at its traditional best in the throbbing atmosphere at Anfield on Wednesday night as we witnessed, once again, one of those 'European Night' when Liverpool came from behind to beat AC Milan.

Without question, the return of fans has had a positive effect on the players and the performances have been more in line with pre-pandemic results. Unlike last season, when away wins somehow became the norm, we are back to home advantage playing its role for a return to home victories and that's all down to the 12th man returning to the stands.

Best of all, the vibrancy and elation of the fans after a goal has transformed the viewing experience adding so much more life to the goal celebration rather than the shallow cheer created in the vacuum of a hollowed-out empty stadium.

Top six in top form

The return of fans, especially for the big clubs in their huge stadiums has definitely seen a return to form of the traditional top sides. After just four games the table has an ominous look to it for any lower-tiered team. Man United are on top, on goal difference, followed by Chelsea and Liverpool ahead of Man City only separated by the surprisingly good start of Everton. This has the league shaping up to be another parade to the top for the big boys. Everton's inclusion in this list, the only fly in the ointment of the mini superleague. And then there is the question of where's Arsenal?

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta on the touchline during the Premier League match at the Etihad Stadium, Manchester, where they lost 5-0 to City. Picture: Adam Peck
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta on the touchline during the Premier League match at the Etihad Stadium, Manchester, where they lost 5-0 to City. Picture: Adam Peck

In my season preview last month, I had Arsenal outside the top six come season end. Not enough was done off-season to see things change I feared. But I never thought I'd see them dicing with relegation places, early stages and all it may be.

Three defeats in their first three games saw them not score and concede 10-goals. A win last weekend has put a halt on the rot but a 1-0 win at home to Norwich is hardly something to get excited about.

Now don't get me wrong, I don't think the Gunners are getting relegated but they are closer to that fate than making the Champions League places on current form. They face a long road back to relevance.

Brighton and Hove Albion's players applaud the away fans after the Premier League match at The Brentford Community Stadium, London. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire.
Brighton and Hove Albion's players applaud the away fans after the Premier League match at The Brentford Community Stadium, London. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire.

Speaking of predictions. Over recent seasons, I continued to predict Brighton's demise only for them to battle back and avoid the drop with no small measure of style and determination. So, this year I called them for surviving and a bottom quarter finish. Not only have they achieved that they are now looking at a top-half finish. The Seagulls flying high and Ireland's Shane Duffy playing his part in their success, who'd a thunk it.

Another surprise package has been new boys Brentford. Starting off with a morale-boosting win against Arsenal, they have shown they can handle themselves well in this company. I still fear The Bees may go down, but their fans and stadium atmosphere has been a breath of fresh air for the league.

CR7

Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring the side's first goal of the game during the Premier League match at Old Trafford, Manchester, against Newcastle United. Picture: Martin Rickett/PA Wire.
Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring the side's first goal of the game during the Premier League match at Old Trafford, Manchester, against Newcastle United. Picture: Martin Rickett/PA Wire.

A breath of fresh air too but from an old source, thus has been the amazing return of Cristiano Ronaldo to the Premier League. Man United were immediately rejuvenated by wiping the eye of their neighbour's City when picking their pocket for the signature of their former club legend CR7.

The party atmosphere on his return to Old Trafford turned positively mardi gras-like when the Portuguese phenom scored twice against Newcastle on his second debut with the club.

The elation this generated at Old Trafford was only equalled by the collective gulp from the rest of the league as the old Fergie-era domination flashed before their eyes like some old war PTSD.

Ronaldo was on hand again to open United's account in the Champions League game against Young Boys on Tuesday evening. However, the 2-1 defeat at the hands of the Swiss team maybe brought us back to some sort of reality and the knowledge that United's shortcomings still exist even with the undoubted boost Ronaldo brings to the side.

It will be interesting to see how the side will do against West Ham on Sunday when they return to domestic action. Can the Eastenders put a stop to Ronaldo's remarkable return tour?

More in this section

Sponsored Content

Add Echolive.ie to your home screen - easy access to Cork news, views, sport and more