Great Britain

Premier League is becoming like the Championship – magnificently bonkers with goals galore and nobody can defend

SO Tottenham still can’t defend, Manchester United can’t defend — and Manchester City haven’t been able to defend consistently well since Vincent Kompany left.

Chelsea can’t defend to such an extent that the second of the three goals they shipped against Southampton made them look like a contemporary dance troupe performing a dramatic parody of really bad defending.

And Liverpool, who had suddenly lost the ability to defend this season, have now lost the best defender in the world for several months at best.

That extraordinary 7-2 hammering at Aston Villa had already indicated that this would not be another procession for Jurgen Klopp’s men.

Yet they were still firm favourites to retain their crown until confirmation that Virgil van Dijk requires knee ligament surgery, and could miss the rest of the campaign, after Jordan Pickford’s reckless challenge in the Merseyside derby.

Since the Dutchman joined, Liverpool have kept 44 clean sheets in his 95 matches — and went 14 months without losing a Premier League match.

With Alisson also out for a month, and back-up keeper Adrian a weak link, the Reds are suddenly vulnerable.

But if title-winning teams are always built on a strong backline, then who on Earth will challenge them this season?

Defending is out of fashion — the days of Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand, John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho, Tony Adams and Martin Keown, long gone.

Arsenal are more defensively solid under Mikel Arteta, yet still succumbed rather meekly at Anfield and the Etihad.

Leicester do not have the squad depth to mount another challenge, while Everton have a goalkeeper with an angry beehive inside his head.

Can Villa, the only team in Europe’s top five leagues with a 100 per cent record, do a Leicester?

Well, bookies no longer offer 5,000-1 pre-season title odds and Villa have Terry in the dugout — an actual proper defender. How retro.

Something extremely odd is occurring in this behind-closed-doors era.

The Premier League has become the new Championship — magnificently, unpredictably bonkers.

And 3-3 is the new 1-1, now a bog-standard scoreline.

Throughout the Premier League’s 28 seasons, the average number of goals per match has always fallen between 2.48 and 2.82 and there had been no noticeable upward trend over the past decade.

Yet in the first 46 matches of this campaign — a pretty decent sample size — that figure has risen to a statistically-staggering 3.72.

Before Project Restart, we feared matches would become half-paced and sterile.

And while we miss you all — empty stadiums are not just horribly quiet but also remarkably cold without your body heat — the football is gloriously chaotic.

Nobody predicted this nor fully understands it. Unless losing the ability to defend in football matches is an as-yet-undiagnosed Covid symptom, we can only assume that attacking players are less risk-averse without the presence of a crowd, while defensive players are less attuned to danger.

VAR is not to blame, given that it takes away as many goals through dodgy offsides as it gives us with dodgy penalty awards for handball.

Anyway, if all of this thrilling unpredictability in individual matches and the league table is difficult to explain, it is also very welcome. If you can afford £400 a month to watch it all live, you’d even be close to getting value for money.

So who might win it, then? City appear to have signed a decent defender in Ruben Dias, yet how to eliminate that sense of drift under Pep Guardiola — who is out of contract next summer and has misplaced his mojo?

Chelsea signed two good ’uns in Thiago Silva and Ben Chilwell — as well as a wonderful striker in Timo Werner — but there is not yet the slightest sign of defensive shape or sanity.

United didn’t significantly strengthen their backline when they were supposed to be exploiting a weakened transfer market to do just that.

Had Spurs seen out a 3-0 victory over West Ham, they would be talked up as genuine title contenders, such is the synergy between Harry Kane and Son Heung-min. But they didn’t.

So, who then? Who knows. Let’s just enjoy the mayhem, embrace the chaos.

In these lunatic times, we finally have some uncertainty we can all enjoy.

David Moyes ecstatic after West Ham draw 3-3 with Tottenham saying they never give up

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