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Premier League 2020-21 season review: our writers’ best and worst | Soccer

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Best player

Nick Ames Harry Kane – which might just be why he wants to set his sights higher than Spurs for the rest of his career. Thirteen assists to go with his 23 goals points to his development into the world’s best all-round centre-forward. Kevin De Bruyne has not been far behind while it has been fascinating to see Riyad Mahrez blossom into one of Manchester City’s most important players.

John Brewin Phil Foden. Young, gifted and from Stockport. With Foden flourishing, City have not missed David Silva at all this season.

Simon Burnton After Chelsea’s summer splurge, particularly the arrivals of Kai Havertz and Hakim Ziyech, this had all the hallmarks of a difficult second season at Stamford Bridge for Mason Mount. He ends it their player of the season and a key man for England.

Mason Mount: no difficult second season.
Mason Mount: no difficult second season. Photograph: Getty Images

Tumaini Carayol Kane. After many years as a top goalscorer, this season he also rose to become the league’s most prolific creator in an incredible individual season. Along with Son Heung-min, he has also been the saviour of an otherwise meek, miserable Tottenham team.

Paul Doyle Mohamed Salah. Sometimes he is selfish on the pitch but for much of this season he practically carried Liverpool alone. Without him they might have finished in the bottom half.

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Ben Fisher De Bruyne has been typically superb for the champions, at home in midfield, out wide, and even when asked to operate as a false nine. Across Manchester, Bruno Fernandes has been equally magical. Like De Bruyne, he is the kind of player you would happily pay to watch.

Barry Glendenning De Bruyne.

Andy Hunter Rúben Dias. The undisputed winner, and in a title-winning team blessed with De Bruyne, Foden and Ilkay Gündogan that illustrates the impact and leadership of the new arrival, who also improved the confidence and form of those around him.

David Hytner Dias has been a rock for Manchester City, spreading assurance, laying the foundation stone for everything that the club has achieved.

Jamie Jackson Foden. This writer has never witnessed a single duff display from the magical youngster. The 20-year-old offers creativity, devilry to burn and a lethal goal-threat. How good will he be next season, or the one after that? Watch this space: it will be fun.

Jonathan Liew Dias. As transformative for City as Virgil van Dijk was for Liverpool last season. Commanding without being individualistic; calm without being passive. One of those players who raises the baseline standards of those around him.

Niall McVeigh You could make a case for a few different players from Manchester City, who were the best team by a distance. Head says the near-flawless Dias, heart says the thrilling Foden.

Scott Murray Mason Mount has been man of the match in every single Chelsea game this season … and if that’s not statistically correct, it still speaks to a higher truth. Also, given it wasn’t the greatest season for Frank Lampard, all told, here’s a pat on the back for some top-drawer mentoring.

Sachin Nakrani Kane. The numbers were stunning and what made Kane’s output especially remarkable was that it took place in a team that became increasingly zombified under José Mourinho. As others lost their way amid the dark spell of The Awful One, Kane continued to thrive. It’s little wonder he now wants to leave Spurs. He’s not only done his bit for the club, he’s outgrown it.

Barney Ronay Kane. Has any player ever been so pointlessly, fruitlessly good? Departure from Spurs is now essential on humanitarian grounds. Perhaps the new football regulator could step in.

Jacob Steinberg Dias is the obvious choice. The defender is City’s answer to Van Dijk and has sorted out their problems at the back after forming a fine partnership with John Stones.

Louise Taylor Patrick Bamford. Oh ye of little faith. How did we doubt the Leeds striker? Seventeen Premier League goals serve as a reproach to those who claimed Bamford was not top-flight calibre. An amalgam of highly intelligent movement and consistent incision, he has revelled in confounding the doubters and deserves an England chance.

Patrick Bamford: proving the doubters wrong.
Patrick Bamford: proving the doubters wrong. Photograph: Lynne Cameron/Reuters

Will Unwin Ilkay Gündogan. Dias has changed City’s defence beyond all recognition since his arrival, which has overshadowed how good Gündogan has been. The clinical midfielder has won two Premier League player of the month awards in what has been a fantastic, injury-free season.

Best manager

NA The salvage operation Thomas Tuchel performed on Chelsea’s season, perhaps culminating in the biggest prize of all next weekend, has been deeply impressive despite their Cup final flop. But Pep Guardiola’s achievement in leading Manchester City back to the top should not be taken for granted. He has coaxed a team that was in need of a refresh into a repeat of its old dominance. An honourable mention for Marcelo Bielsa, whose fearless Leeds team barely missed a beat after coming up.

JB Bielsa. Enjoy him while you still can. He’s already stayed far longer than expected – signing a new one-year deal – and made Leeds United a fun club to follow.

SB For all the absolutely massive advantages he enjoys this season has been something of a tour de force for Guardiola. However, anyone who doesn’t say Bielsa is wrong.

TC Guardiola. After such an average start and many questions over Manchester City’s direction, the manner in which he has transformed his team, both defensively and up front without a true No 9, has been wonderful.

PD Bielsa. Leeds were the most consistently exciting team in the league.

BF David Moyes deserves immense credit for transforming West Ham and Sean Dyche continues to work miracles on modest resources, with £1m buy Dale Stephens their most notable signing last summer. Avoiding relegation was never really in doubt, despite a rocky start.

Sean Dyche kept Burnley in the top flight with relative comfort once again.
Sean Dyche kept Burnley in the top flight with relative comfort once again. Photograph: John Walton/PA

BG For all the expensive talent Manchester City have at their disposal, any hopes they had of winning the title looked extremely bleak before Christmas. The turnaround masterminded by Guardiola was extraordinary.

AH Guardiola. Brendan Rodgers and Moyes delivered fine campaigns but a third Premier League title in four seasons, with a poor start, the Lyon hangover and the pandemic all thrown in the mix, distinguishes the City manager from his peers.

DH Bielsa has overseen a rebrand of Leeds that will be the subject of marketing PhDs in 20 years’ time.

JJ Rodgers. How pleasing was it to see the Northern Irishman guide his wonderful Leicester side to an inaugural FA Cup triumph? Do not rule out Rodgers masterminding a serious title challenge, either, in the not so distant future. This is a smart cookie of a manager.

JL Guardiola. You could make a case for Moyes, Rodgers, even Bielsa. But – and this is a lesson Guardiola himself seems to have learned during the last year – sometimes it’s best not to overthink these things.

NMc Guardiola reclaimed the title, Bielsa made Leeds competitive and entertaining, but nobody surpassed expectations like David Moyes. Any West Ham fans returning on Sunday to see European football confirmed must have wondered just how long they had been away.

SM The correct answer is Pep – of course it is – but Ralph Hasenhüttl deserves some recognition for being the only manager in history to top the league and lose 9-0 in the same season.

SN Moyes. Taking any team from 16th to sixth is a remarkable achievement and especially so for a manager who, most agreed, was done at the highest level. Moyes has been reborn, busting the narrative by putting together a side that was not only resilient but, at times, thrilling to watch.

BR Bielsa. A ninth-placed finish with the 19th-biggest wage bill in Leeds’ first season up. Mainly, though, the fun, the intricacy and basic joy of his teams in an otherwise gruelling season. Also: incredible quads.

JS Moyes has performed wonders at West Ham, making fools of those who lazily dismissed him as a tactical dinosaur.

LT Guardiola. Not content with winning the title and the League Cup with a new “post striker”, Manchester City’s manager has also led his intriguingly evolving team into the Champions League final. Injuries to Sergio Agüero and Gabriel Jesus forced a new system on Guardiola, who also changed the team’s pressing style. How many other managers could have made it work so well?

WU Dyche. Burnley’s style has not changed since getting promoted to the Premier League in 2017, which should mean they are pretty easy to work out but still they battle their way to survival every season without much fuss. Burnley had just two points from their opening seven matches, but still recovered to stay up with ease despite Dyche possessing a squad with no depth.

Best goal

NA Érik Lamela’s controlled, inch-perfect rabona at the Emirates bears watching hundreds of times over – perhaps even by Arsenal fans, given they ultimately had the last laugh. But realistically this award can only go to Alisson, for reasons that hardly need spelling out.

JB Lamela. Tottenham lost to Arsenal and he later got himself sent off. He’ll almost certainly look a plum next time he tries it. But still, this time the rabona went in.

SB There have been only three assists and two goals for Adama Traoré this season, but from a game with two great solo efforts (Jesse Lingard’s for West Ham being the other) his assist for Leander Dendoncker has stuck in the memory. Just exceptional wing play, and the perfect cross to end it.

TC Cavani against Fulham. The vision, confidence, technique and execution all converging in the form of that 40-yard chip was beautiful to witness.

Edinson Cavani’s touch of brilliance at Old Trafford.
Edinson Cavani’s touch of brilliance at Old Trafford. Photograph: Paul Ellis/PA

PD Ollie Watkins for Aston Villa v Liverpool. Watkins had not scored in the Premier League before netting a hat-trick against the champions; for his second goal in the game he demonstrated his clever running and emphatic finishing, all following a nifty set-up by the wonderful Jack Grealish.

BF Callum Robinson v Chelsea. Everyone expected West Brom to get walloped at the Bridge in April but not only did they triumph, but they did so in style. Robinson’s side-footed volley at the end of a sweeping team move helped Sam Allardyce’s doomed side to an unlikely 5-2 victory. Bonus points for the sound it made when it hit the net.

BG Followed later in the game by a red card for its scorer, Lamela’s wonderful rabona in defeat against Arsenal could only have been more “Spursy” if it were soundtracked by Chas & Dave.

AH Lamela. Nothing beats Alisson’s 95th-minute header against West Brom for drama, poignancy and significance but, purely in terms of quality, the Spurs man’s rabona in the north London derby was in a class of its own. The “wows” heard inside the empty stadium said it all.

DH Who isn’t a sucker for the 95th-minute winner that makes fans lose their minds? And when it is scored by a goalkeeper who is dealing with personal tragedy … so, Alisson’s header.

JJ Cavani. The Uruguayan’s show-stopping instant 40-yard hit sent Old Trafford into ecstasy. On a sunny evening in Manchester, here was a moment of sheer perfection on the return of 10,000 fans.

JL Bruno Fernandes v Everton. An outrageous dummy; a nonchalant little look; a shimmy to the right; a glorious slow lob from 25 yards. Fernandes’s goal was the hallmark of a player who often does whatever he wants.

NMc Manuel Lanzini’s audacious late equaliser to complete West Ham’s three-goal fightback at Spurs was a rare moment to get even neutrals off their seats in this often becalmed season.

SM Aesthetically it’s the Trent-Powercube-Salah pitch-length sweep at West Ham, emotionally it’s Alisson. Either way, Liverpool have got this.

SN Alisson. Goalkeeper scores an important 95th-minute winner with an excellent glancing header. Enough said.

BR Cavani v Fulham. Recency bias, perhaps, but it’s the goal everyone dreams of scoring. Went quite well. Chipped the keeper from 40 yards, floating the ball in a beautiful arc in front of delirious newly returned fans. So that was good.

JS Lanzini’s last-minute screamer against Tottenham. Hugo Lloris was left grasping at thin air as the midfielder’s shot flew into the top corner and completed West Ham’s astonishing comeback from 3-0 down.

LT Allan Saint-Maximin v Burnley. Newcastle’s fabulous French winger collected the ball near the centre circle and drove forward at pace, wrong-footing Ben Mee and James Tarkowski before earning three points courtesy of an angled, unerring, sumptuous, left-footed shot.

WU Matt Lowton for Burnley v Palace. It is the only match I’ve actually been to in the last 15 months, and it was a superb run and volley from an unlikely source.

Best match

NA This may be recency bias, but five days on I cannot get Brighton 3-2 Manchester City out of my head. Eight thousand returning fans made the noise of a crowd five times bigger, and a dead rubber assumed the edge and urgency of an occasion with far higher stakes. From a neutral perspective, hearing the atmosphere ramp up to fever pitch as Brighton overhauled a two-goal deficit was genuinely joyful.

Adam Webster celebrates his equaliser for Brighton as fans raised the roof against Manchester City.
Adam Webster celebrates his equaliser for Brighton as fans raised the roof against Manchester City. Photograph: Mike Hewitt/PA

JB Chelsea 2-5 West Brom. It followed a three-match international break of extreme drudgery, and it was good to see Sam Allardyce enjoying what he enjoys most, possibly for the last time; getting one over on the big boys.

SB Tottenham 3-3 West Ham. From back when Spurs being fragile was still unusual – they had just stuffed Manchester United 6-1 at Old Trafford – West Ham’s eight-minute comeback from 3-0 down, with a brilliantlast-minute equaliser, was spectacular.

TC Liverpool 4-3 Leeds. Faced with defending champions in their first game back in the league, Marcelo Bielsa’s side had the audacity to assert their attacking football without fear or favour. It was as messy as it was enthralling – there were disallowed goals, two penalties and defensive errors all over the place but rarely have new arrivals offered such a clear account of their intentions.

PD Manchester City 2-5 Leicester. It was not a typical Leicester performance, yet it showcased a lot of what makes them so good under Brendan Rodgers.

BF Manchester United’s 3-2 comeback win at Southampton was the first time Edinson Cavani, a half-time substitute, truly bared his teeth. Set up Bruno Fernandes to pull a goal back before registering two instinctive, twisting headers, including a stooped 90th-minute winner.

BG Despite weighing in with far fewer goals than expected, the 1-1 draw between Leeds and Manchester City was a white-knuckle ride for the ages, overshadowed by Spurs and Aston Villa’s big wins on the same weekend.

AH Liverpool 4-3 Leeds was highly entertaining but as two old rivals traded goals on a sun-kissed opening day at Anfield, only a smattering of applause greeted each one. It provided an early reminder that football without fans means nothing.

DH Aston Villa 7-2 Liverpool seemed to capture the uniqueness of this season. Jack Grealish was similarly unreal.

JJ Manchester United 9-0 Southampton. The scoreline was a throwback to the games of youth when goals pile up and it becomes a free-for-all. Sadly for Southampton, they were unable to manage even one.

JL Leeds 1-1 Manchester City. A game that showed just how far the Premier League has travelled from its lumpen 1990s origins. An extraordinary, exhilarating, exhausting chess match between two genius coaches, trying to outwit and outflank each other in driving rain.

NMc Liverpool 1-4 Manchester City was an intriguing, high-stakes battle for the first hour, before City effectively took the title back in one 10-minute spell as Liverpool, and Alisson in particular, fell apart under the pressure. Phil Foden’s drive into the top corner brought an emphatic end to City’s long wait for an Anfield win.

SM Manchester United 1-6 Tottenham. Mourinho and Spurs looked upwardly mobile title contenders upon winning, while Ole Gunnar Solskjær resembled a busted flush. A perfect metaphor for a topsy-turvy, surreal, positively psychedelic season.

SN Liverpool 4-3 Leeds. Seven goals resulting from relentless, wild attacking football, swings in momentum and an immediate indication of what a joy Leeds were going to be to watch this season.

BR Chelsea 1-3 Manchester City. This was not a season of individual matches, more a constant, ambient noise spread across every surface. But Manchester City’s evisceration of Chelsea at Stamford Bridge defined their title win. Plus I can actually remember it.

JS Chelsea’s win over Leicester at Stamford Bridge last week proved that football is nothing without fans. What an atmosphere.

Ferran Torres scores the second of his three volleyed goals at St James’ Park.
Ferran Torres scores the second of his three volleyed goals at St James’ Park. Photograph: Stu Forster/Reuters

LT Newcastle 3-4 Manchester City. A madcap 90 minutes filled with thrilling counterattacks from Newcastle, while Manchester City’s imperious attacking play was crowned by a superb Ferran Torres hat-trick, featuring three varieties of volley.

WU Newcastle v Manchester City. It was a dead rubber, so everyone played with great freedom and even Scott Carson got his first Premier League outing in a decade. Torres’ lovely hat-trick was the cherry on top of the cake.

Best signing

NA Rúben Dias’ impact at Manchester City has been inescapable: they look so much tougher, savvier and calmer in an area that was long perceived as their weak spot and the results speak for themselves. Two Aston Villa players need mentioning too: the £28m fee for Ollie Watkins looked steep but 14 top-flight goals justified the price tag. ; Emi Martínez got a long-overdue chance to shine and became one of the division’s best keepers.

JB Dias. Pep Guardiola needed a new Vincent Kompany, and he got him in a player who was not even at the top of City’s shopping list.

SB There are several options, and most of them play for Aston Villa. Martínez ahead of Watkins, by the slenderest of margins.

TC Rúben Dias. One of the best performers in the league this year and one of the defining pieces in Manchester City’s title run.

PD Wesley Fofana. He adapted to the Premier League – and a new country, in the middle of a pandemic – with a cool authority not normal in one so young.

BF Pound for pound, Vladimir Coufal, who was a snip at £5.4m from Slavia Prague. It has been a season to appreciate defenders, with Dias and Fofana equally impressive.

BG Martínez scarcely put a foot wrong in goal for Aston Villa, doing little to assuage the concerns of Arsenal fans that in agreeing the deal, their club had sold their best goalkeeper.

AH Dias. Predictable admittedly, but it has to be. Leeds’ Raphinha a close second at £16m with honourable mentions for Eberechi Eze and Martínez.

Emi Martínez: did Arsenal let Aston Villa take their best goalkeeper?
Emi Martínez: did Arsenal let Aston Villa take their best goalkeeper? Photograph: Malcolm Couzens/Getty Images

DH Dias has been the league’s outstanding performer, so it has to be him. But I’ve also loved watching Edinson Cavani and Thiago Silva enter a new competition late in their careers and continue to ooze class.

JJ Cavani. The centre-forward has 16 goals at United’s best strike rate by a country mile while offering a world-class attitude as well as talent. His cost? Nada.

JL Dias. City would probably still have won the title without Kevin De Bruyne or João Cancelo or Ilkay Gündogan. But not Dias. An honourable mention to Martínez, who’s probably been worth a good six to 10 points on his own to Aston Villa.

NMc Dias is the obvious choice but Édouard Mendy deserves a mention. While some of Chelsea’s big-money buys flattered to deceive, the £22m keeper who only turned professional at 24 has proved to be an inspired signing.

SM Leicester’s gimlet-eyed scouts nail this pretty much every year. It’s Wesley Fofana’s turn this time.

SN Jesse Lingard. Yet more proof that you can make shrewd signings in January. The 28-year-old arrived on loan at West Ham and immediately went about turbo-charging their pursuit of European football. There were goals, there were assists, and the sense that Lingard has found a new home. A permanent move this summer would make sense for all parties.

BR Dias. Tomas Soucek only signed permanently in the summer and has tripled in value, while reviving both David Moyes’s aura and the allure of very tall midfielders. But Dias has transformed an already very good team.

JS I’ve already mentioned Dias, who was a great signing, so I’ll go for Coufal. The Czech right-back has been a revelation since joining West Ham, demonstrating how many bargains are out there if clubs are willing to take a gamble. “Lionel Jesse” also deserves a mention after reviving his career since his loan move.

LT Raphinha. Rarely can £16m have been better spent. A joy to watch, the Brazilian winger’s mesmeric skills have switched the lights on at Elland Road this season, and his price tag has surely tripled. Hats off to Victor Orta, the Leeds director of football and renowned talent spotter, for uncovering another gem.

WU Dias. Without him, City would have the same old leaky defence making ludicrous errors to cancel out their goalscoring exploits. He has brought leadership in the heart of defence and helped John Stones to remember that he is a hugely talented defender.

Worst flop

NA With the caveat that “flop” status can owe as much to environmental factors as any shortcomings on a player’s part, Rhian Brewster’s first season at Sheffield United after arriving for £23.5m was little short of a disaster. Brewster is a big talent who could still have an exceptional career if he rebounds next season, but the Blades might have fared better if that cash was spent on a surer thing. Willian’s woeful stint at Arsenal will also be remembered as a costly overindulgence.

JB Willian. Free transfers long ceased being bargains and the decision-making behind offering a 32-year-old with millions of miles on the clock a three-year deal is indicative of why the club has fallen so far in recent years.

SB There’s something about clubs speculatively signing players they have no need for or clue what to do with that is uniquely grating. That’s why, really through no fault of his own, I’m going with Donny van de Beek. See also Ben Davies at Liverpool.

Donny van de Beek tackles Adama Traoré.
Donny van de Beek: why exactly did Manchester United buy him? Photograph: Bradley Collyer/PA

TC The “Big Six” owners and European Super League. The arrogance and hubris from the owners that led to the attempted formation of the breakaway now has fans protesting their presence in their clubs. A flop in the truest sense of the word.

PD Van de Beek. Although it is not his fault Manchester United bought him without knowing why.

BF Brewster’s move to Sheffield United backfired badly on Chris Wilder.

BG The Blades will be hoping that Brewster can refind his feet in the Championship following their return of no goals for a club-record outlay.

AH The 48-hour Super League. Hopefully meaningful repercussions for all involved are still to come although, judging by the measures taken so far by Uefa, that appears unlikely.

DH José Mourinho – for how he played this season and the state in which he left Tottenham; players scarred, many of their values torpedoed.

JJ Van de Beek. An expensive signing who cannot seem to force his way into Solskjær’s thinking. Given how even-handed the manager is, the responsibility is surely with the player. But why the midfielder was signed is a question for Solskjær and the rest of United’s brains trust.

JL Sheffield United had one shot at signing the striker who could keep them up. Twenty-five games and no goals later, Brewster’s signing will go down as a catastrophic folly. Don’t blame him, blame the guys who blew a club-record fee on a raw 20-year-old who clearly wasn’t ready for the job.

NMc Pay-per-view games. West Brom fans could feel particularly aggrieved, asked to fork out nearly £50 for games with Burnley, Brighton and Fulham that ended 0-0, 1-1 and 0-2 respectively. Thankfully, it was a short-lived stunt.

SM This wasn’t Fireman Sam’s finest hour. Turn the taps on at the Hawthorns and flames shoot out. Ow! A few burns during those bitter, needlessly vituperative, unintentionally hilarious post-match pressers too.

SN The 2020-21 season. From the lack of crowds to the relentless schedule, appalling officiating and the European Super League, it’s been a largely miserable campaign. Cold, detached, depressing. Thank God it’s over.

Empty seats at the King Power Stadium as Leicester took on Crystal Palace.
Empty seats at the King Power Stadium as Leicester took on Crystal Palace. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian

BR Donny van de Beek. Not, perhaps, entirely his fault. A more flexible manager might have got more out of a very good player. But let’s be honest, it’s been a non-event, notable only for some deeply affecting sad-face appearances in a row of empty plastic seats.

JS Who could have imagined that Mourinho would alienate most of his players, play awful football and spend most of his time at Tottenham moaning? Probably not the people who defend Mourinho by banging on about his winning mentality. How can it possibly be that this proven winner has failed in each of his previous three jobs?

LT It is important to state that this is not Brewster’s fault but what on earth possessed Sheffield United to blow £23.5m on a striker who had not made a single Premier League appearance for Liverpool? Brewster remains promising but he was way out of his depth and failed to score a single goal all season.

WU Is it unfair on Rhian Brewster? Probably, but no goals and his new team finishing bottom of the table is an indication the season has gone poorly.

Biggest gripe

NA No apologies for sounding like a broken record here: VAR has caused Premier League football far more problems than it has solved. While acknowledging that this is wishful thinking, it should be consigned to history. Even more serious is the Super League debacle and the embarrassing apologies the clubs cobbled together in its aftermath. Make no mistake: if they cared, they would have found a way to consult fans before signing off on the project.

JB During the European Super League’s 48-hour existence, there was a sense of unity between fans believing that what the rebel clubs were doing was a very bad thing. And yet it didn’t take long for petty rivalries to resume afterwards. Such divisions and self-interest are there to be exploited by those still seeking to revive that whole refinancing scam.

SB If your biggest gripe isn’t the way VAR is applied to offside decisions, you’re not watching the same sport as me.

TC Aside from VAR, the fake crowd noise. Athletes around the world have had to consistently find motivation, focus and energy surrounded by absolutely nobody. To me, that was one of the most interesting parts of this season and a strange thing to ignore.

PD All the injuries, especially at Wolves, where the serious ones suffered by Raúl Jiménez, Jonny and Pedro Neto were sad for various reasons, including that they contributed to the departure of Nuno Espírito Santo.

BF Same as last year: the ingrained relationship between gambling and football. Eight of the division’s teams wore shirts sponsored by betting firms. More clubs should take a leaf out of Swansea’s book; the play-off finalists are now sponsored by Swansea University, in an effort to move away from an association with betting companies.

BG The sheer relentlessness of a schedule that dares to put Premier League games on a Sunday night when most right-thinking, civilised people would rather settle down for an Antiques Roadshow and Midsomer Murders double bill.

AH That it took a monumental betrayal by the owners of the “Big Six” – one that everyone saw coming – for a review into how English football is governed to finally gain the support of government and the entire football community. It’s too late for the likes of Bury. Supporter representation at boardroom level is a good start, but much more will be needed.

DH How the owners of the “Big Six” were ready to destroy the integrity and romance of the domestic game for their own selfish ends. We really must think of a better collective noun for them. I have a few suggestions …

JJ The eternal moaning about VAR. So here’s a moan about the moaning: good people of football, if it’s offside by an armpit, it’s offside – for both teams. If it’s a marginal handball, guess what? It’s still handball. Stop the griping and this correspondent will stop the griping about the griping.

JL Moaning about VAR. The system itself is fine: a bit slow perhaps, but already a marked improvement on human error. The real issue is the moaning: managers groping for excuses, interviewers happy to goad them, pundits and fans happy to fume about “the technology” because it spares them having to form any actual thoughts on football. And yes, I’m aware that moaning about the moaning strays dangerously into irony.

NMc Commentators informing us in hushed tones that a goal is being checked by VAR. Every goal is checked by VAR. Read the guidelines. Read them and understand them!

SM In a season where everyone went above and beyond to keep us all entertained through lockdown, it would be churlish to carp, even about VAR. Straight back on it next year, though, promise.

SN Aware 99% of people reading this won’t care, but 8.15pm kick-offs are a massive pain in the neck for the newspaper industry. Those extra 15 minutes cause huge logistical problems, and I think I speak for everyone at Guardian Sport when I say they can well and truly get in the bin.

BR Incremental hijack of every single aspect of the match-going experience by digital content providers and club owners, from insane kick-off times to synthesised noise to (oh yes) tearing up the entire structure of our shared football culture. Apart from that all good.

JS The scared, small, selfish logic behind the European Super League. The men behind it are enemies of football.

LT It’s important to stress it was a privilege to be able to report from the grounds when fans were locked out but Covid restrictions made it a long, cold, winter. Football reporters are used to shivering but, in normal times, there is access to an indoor working area before and after the final whistle. With press areas closed and managers conducting post-match debriefs on Zoom, journalists regularly spent more than three hours in the cold.

WU Six club owners thinking they were entitled to join a European Super League. What a ludicrous group of people who obviously hate football.

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