How have YOUR club coped behind closed doors in the last year?

Liverpool are sixth in the Pandemic Premier League table with Sheffield United the biggest losers and the Manchester clubs leading the way… How has YOUR club coped behind closed doors in the last year?

  • It is a year since football was suspended after the Covid-19 pandemic struck
  • After a three-month suspension, with the exception of a handful of games with reduced crowds, matches have been played without fans ever since
  • Manchester City are top of the Premier League table since the pandemic struck
  • Champions Liverpool are down in 6th place having been 25 points clear
  • Sheffield Unied have fallen from 7th to the brink of relegation

This month brings up unhappy anniversaries for us all after a year of the Covid-19 pandemic wreaking havoc with our lives.

For many football fans, it is now 12 months or more since they were able to go and watch their team. The 2019-20 season was suspended by the FA on March 13, 2020 with the UK’s first lockdown announced three days later.

The suspension was initally supposed to last three weeks, but it would be more than three months before football returned, with June 17 marking the first match of the Premier League’s Project Restart.

Liverpool are sixth in the Pandemic Premier League table – having been 25 points clear

Barring a handful of fixtures at the end of November and beginning of December in front of severely reduced and socially distanced crowds, we have now witnessed nearly a season’s worth of football being played behind closed doors.

All sorts of theories have been thrown out about as to who it has affected most and why, and a look at the Pandemic Premier League table clears it all up.

The two biggest losers, without doubt, are Liverpool and Sheffield United. It took until the 29th match of last season for Liverpool to lose for the first time – a shock 3-0 defeat by Watford in what was their final fixture before the pandemic struck with them a whopping 25 points clear. Since then, they have lost a scarcely believable 11 of 37 matches.

Jurgen Klopp’s side have lost 11 matches since football went behind-closed-doors

However, if Sheffield United are relegated as expected, they can claim to have had the rawest deal. A year ago, Chris Wilder’s Blades were flying high in seventh with 43 points, just two points behind fifth-placed Manchester United with a game in hand and five off Chelsea in fourth.

The newly-promoted Blades had won a stunning 12 of 28 games by this time last year. Since then, they have played a season’s worth of games (38) and mustered just seven wins and 25 points. 

If anyone was in any doubt about what effect the raucous Bramall Lane crowd were having on Sheffield United in their first season back in the top flight for 13 years, the table bears it out. Twelve points from safety, it is a matter of when and not if they are relegated.

There is no better illustration of the differing impact playing behind closed doors can have on teams than the contrasting fortunes of Sheffield United and Manchester United. Two points apart before the first lockdown, they are a staggering 50 points apart in the pandemic table. That is certainly not all down to Dean Henderson returning to his parent club.

Chris Wilder’s Sheffield United are set to be relegated after a disastrous year without their fans

Manchester United are arguably the greatest winners of lockdown, despite not topping the table, given their swing in form. They have lost fewer matches than anyone else, and two of those four defeats came in those anomalous Old Trafford losses to Tottenham and Crystal Palace at the start of the season – when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side had had a shorter pre-season than anyone else due to European commitments.

Just as Sheffield United have missed their 12th man spurring them on, United have enjoyed being free from the burden of playing in front of their success-starved fans. Their away form has been incredible, perhaps without home crowds inspiring their teams against England’s most successful club. 

It is United’s Manchester rivals, however, who sit top of the Pandemic Premier League table, with Man City having accrued 92 points from 39 matches in the past year. Pep Guardiola’s side had struggled before lockdown as their quest for a third title in a row faltered, with seven defeats, though the last year has seen a return to the form they had shown in front of fans for the two seasons before that. 

While Liverpool’s slump feels in part down to the absence of fans, with Jurgen Klopp’s furious pressing game aided by febrile atmospheres, it has never felt as though City’s improvement has been down to the lack of crowds, more to their dealings in the transfer market, most notably the signing of Ruben Dias.

(L-R) Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United and Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City have coped with playing behind closed doors better than any other teams

While only playing nine matches, Norwich’s 100 per cent losing record stands out, though they have fared well without fans in the Championship and look set to bounce straight back. Of the 17 teams who have been in the Premier League for the whole year, the bottom three are Sheffield United (25 points), Newcastle (36) and Crystal Palace (38). 

Newcastle and Palace were 13th and 11th respectively when the pandemic struck and both have suffered more than most without fans in past 12 months – Newcastle going nine matches without a win recently and Palace losing seven in a row at the end of last season. 

At the other end of the table, West Ham are the surprise package. David Moyes’ side have amassed as many points in the last year as Liverpool (60) and find themselves flying high in fifth place this season, having been 16th when the pandemic struck.

It will be fascinating to see which of these patterns remain and which reverse once fans return in a few months’ time. 

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