After Arsenal manager, Mikel Arteta, tested positive for the coronavirus, the premier league had to effectively suspend all premier league games until April 3rd, at the earliest.
The announcement came amidst cries from experts for the need to suspend all sporting activities until the pandemic blows over. Earlier the league had seriously considered the possibilities of playing matches indoor, with a few champions league and Europa league games having already followed that format.
The decision became easier, however, following the positive testing on both Mikel Arteta and Chelsea winger, Callum Hudson-Odoi for the mild, but rapidly-spreading virus.
While the decision to suspend the season became a fairly easy one to make, it also set in motion the need to make some tougher decisions in the days to come.
Thanks to the rapid spread of the virus, and its novelty and unpredictability, experts are unable to give a definite prediction as to how long it will be around, or what the specific implications would be.
And the consequence of that general uncertainty is an even murkier uncertainty regarding the future of the league this season. Subsequent meeting of league and club executives prompted a further postponement till April 30th. Still, tough decisions have to made.
We consider some of the scenarios the premier league may choose to follow below:
Possible Scenarios Going Forward
While this is, without a doubt, a radical solution, it is not far-fetched by any means. It may be months before an effective vaccine is invented for the virus, and another six months for approval, and then more before it is rolled out to the public.
All this may necessitate effectively cancelling the league and rebuilding for the next season.
The implications of this, of course, would be that the season never happens, a scenario Liverpool F.C would particularly not be comfortable with. The Reds have an almost guaranteed chance at lifting the premier league for the first ever time. The cancellation will no doubt be a severe blow to Jurgen Klopp’s men.
- Continual Indefinite Suspension
This would involve a continual appraisal of the situation. In this scenario the league can then choose an appropriate time to resume games once the situation blows over, and the season resumes from where it stopped, as though nothing had happened.
The implications of this is two-folds. First, no one knows how long the situation will drag out. If it were to extend into August – which is the start of a new season – serious clashes will occur.
The second implication, should it extend to a period close to the beginning of a new season, is the lack of enough rest time interval between the end and beginning of both seasons.
Another suggestion is to speed up the season by playing playoffs matches to determine the outcome of the most significant battles, for instant the relegation fights, the fights for champions league places, and so on.
The implications of this is obvious, not only is this a huge deviation from the norm, certain teams who are more well-placed than others may not like the idea so much.
- Finish the League As-Is
Finishing the league as it is now would mean that all positions will effectively be solidified as permanent ending of the league. Liverpool would be crowned champions, the three bottom teams would be relegated, and the current top four teams will qualify for the Champions League.
The implications of this are also obvious. Teams who are close to fighting for significant places, such as Manchester United and Wolves, will feel hard done by. Bottom teams who would be relegated, such as Aston Villa and Bournemouth, will also feel they had been denied a chance for fight for their rightful places in the league.
All possible scenarios seem to be a hard pill to swallow for some teams. The only optimal scenario would be a near-magical disappearance or a cure for the Coronavirus. Until then, all anybody can do now is speculate and try to stay safe.