LONDON, ENGLAND, UK – With media reports coming that the English Premier League has decided on a June 17th restart, highlighted by a double-header featuring Arsenal (9th, 40 points) vs. Manchester City (2nd, 57 points) after suspending play on March 13th due to COVID-19, EPL soccer returning is a positive sign of things returning to normal.
The provisional June 17th restart, which also features Aston Villa vs. Sheffield, will go forward as long as newly instituted safety requirements are in place, pending government approval, will expand a full round of matches two full days later.
Man City, 25 points behind runaway leader—and defending European champion—Liverpool (1st, 82 points) tallied a 3-0 clean sheet down in North London in the club’s first meeting in mid-December as as Belgian forward Kevin De Bruyne (2’,40’) notched a brace with English striker Raheem Sterling (15’) adding a goal in between.
Before play was postponed, the second-table Citizens displayed splendid form in winning four of six matches against West Ham, Leicester City, Real Madrid in the first leg of the Round of 16 of Champions League and Sheffield Wednesday in the fifth round of the FA Cup, while losing EPL matches to Tottenham and Manchester Derby rival, Man United.
The Gunners, who had dismissed manager Unai Emery and brought in former Arsenal captain and fan favorite under Arsene Wenger, Mikel Arteta, were beginning to get their legs under them for their new boss, showed some inconsistent—and at times horrible form—in going 4-2-1 by drawing Burnley, 0-0, beating Newcastle 4-0, losing on aggregate away goals to Olympiacos, beating Portsmouth 2-0 in the fifth round of the FA Cup, and beating West Ham 1-0.
There is also some brewing drama in North London over the long-term contract statuses of German midfielder Mesut Ozil—which is set to expire in 2021 at the same time as French striker Alexander Lacazette and Gabonese talisman Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. If Arsenal is able to salvage a rather forgettable campaign in retaining all three, while challenging successfully for the Champions League and Europa League slots—currently held by Chelsea (4th, 48 points) and the aforementioned Man United (5th, 45 points), then the COVID-19 abbreviated 2019-20 season will be considered a success for Gooners everywhere.