What’s Behind the Premier League’s Early-Season Madness?

Liverpool loses to Aston Villa in a stunning rout

Remember the weekend before last? Remember Manchester City conceding five at home to Leicester City and everybody sucking their teeth and shaking their heads and wondering how a defense like that could ever hope to win the league? Then this past weekend, Leicester itself let in three at home to West Ham, Manchester United conceded six at home to Tottenham and Liverpool was beaten 7-2 at Aston Villa, and suddenly nothing made any sense any more. 

There have been 3.78 goals per game this season in the Premier League against an average of 2.72 per game last (and that was pretty standard: the season before it was 2.82, the season before that 2.67). Clubs are only four games into the season, and some regression to the mean is probable, but something unusual appears to be going on. There’s also the magnifying impact of influence, usually seen in football when a team previously considered invincible starts losing: what once seemed impossible suddenly becomes plausible and behavior changes. It feels as though Barcelona’s 8-2 defeat to Bayern in the Champions League quarterfinals and Bayern’s recent 4-1 defeat to Hoffenheim are part of the same story; this is not just a Premier League phenomenon. 

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