While there are plenty of players – and indeed clubs – who probably quite wish the Premier League season had never got back under way, there’s no doubt that for plenty more the return to action has been a boon. These aren’t necessarily the best players of Project Restart, but they are the ones for whom this unique mini-season has proved more successful than might have been expected based on what had gone on in part one of the season…
Arsenal: Alexandre Lacazette
Just seven goals in the first hefty chunk of the Premier League season; goals against three of the top seven in this much smaller one. He – like his club – still has a question mark against his name but he – like his club – have found reasons to at least be optimistic in this curious mini-season.
Aston Villa: Trezeguet
Villa went five games without a win to begin Project Restart to match their five games without a win to end the first part of the season in the olden times. Trezeguet changed all that with both goals in the win over Crystal Palace. Villa’s first win and Trezeguet’s first goals since January. Could be the start of something special. Probably isn’t.
Bournemouth: Dominic Solanke
Clearly a July specialist. Something for Gareth to think about next summer. Two Premier League goals is still a small return for £17m, but if Bournemouth somehow scramble to safety over the next week or so then scoring twice in the turnaround against Leicester (helped admittedly by some Foxes friendly fire) mean it will be money well spent. Ish.
Brighton: Neal Maupay
Okay, so a late winner against Arsenal was nothing new for Maupay, but the real talk that followed certainly was. Why “let your football do the talking” when you can do that and let your mouth join in a bit?
Burnley: Jay Rodriguez
Five Premier League goals before lockdown? Meh. Three Premier League goals since lockdown, two securing 1-0 wins and the other a point at Anfield? Yeah.
Chelsea: Olivier Giroud
Heading for the exit door in January, rehabilitated in February, prolific in July. It’s a tale as old as time. Four of his six Premier League goals this season have come since the restart (three in one-goal wins) as have seven of his 15 Premier League appearances.
Crystal Palace: N/A
If they can’t be bothered, then neither can we.
Everton: Gylfi Sigurdsson
Doubled his Premier League goal tally for the season with a penalty in the win against Newcastle. That’s all we’ve got here. And pretty much all Everton have got.
Leicester: Kelechi Iheanacho
Oh for fu… Why are these ones all next to each other in the alphabet? The collective bed-shitting currently going on at the King Power obviously makes this tricky, but Iheanacho has scored two Premier League goals since the restart having managed just three all season before the world stopped, and it would be fair to say his slightly perplexing half-time removal at Bournemouth did not pay off for Brendan.
Understandably, Liverpool have not been anywhere near as imperious since Project Restart as they were before, dropping 10 points in seven summer games after giving up just five in the previous 29. Which all rather screws us here. So let’s just cheat. It was Willian’s penalty for Chelsea against Manchester City that finally confirmed the long-delayed inevitable and ended the 30-year-and-six-week wait for glory. That is undeniably far, far more than Willian has contributed to the Liverpool cause before.
Manchester City: Raheem Sterling
It was a huge relief to everyone, with the possible exception of David Luiz, when Sterling capitalised on a rare individual error from the Brazilian to lash in City’s first goal of Project Restart and nip all that ‘Hasn’t scored in 2020’ stuff in the bud. Reductive and obviously misleading as that particular nugget was, 12 games across all competitions (six in the league) without a goal was not ideal. He’s got six Premier League goals in seven since the restart, including a hat-trick against Brighton. Much more like it, although his failure to find the net against Bournemouth on Wednesday means Sterling is now sure to go at least 10 days without a Premier League goal. It’s just feast or famine with him, isn’t it?
Manchester United: Anthony Martial
While leader of the opposition Dr Marcus Rashford has humiliated the actual government, Bruno Fernandes has been superb if a little easily knocked off balance, and Mason Greenwood has added plenty more evidence to the already hefty pile suggesting he is pretty special, the most pleasant on-field surprise during United’s impressive Project Restart has been Martial. While nowhere near being a flop in Manchester, the Frenchman definitely has a whiff of talent unfulfilled. Five goals since the restart, including a tremendous hat-trick against high-flying Sheffield United, has been much more the sort of thing United had in mind when chucking £36m at Monaco five years ago.
Newcastle: Allan Saint-Maximin
We were all set to include him in this feature. Then he got a hat-trick of assists in a 4-1 win at Bournemouth the night before publication having contributed two in total before the lockdown. We’re writing this at 3.32pm on Wednesday afternoon, so by the time you possibly don’t read this on Thursday – time is weird, huh – he’ll no doubt have scored four own goals and got himself sent off against Spurs. Of course, were this to be written after the Spurs game rather than before it then Matt Ritchie would probably get the nod after London bussing his way to a second goal during Project Restart after a 16-month wait for one.
Norwich: Emiliano Buendia
Norwich haven’t picked up a Premier League point since February and have only scored one goal since the restart. It was also Buendia’s first goal of the season, so I guess that means he goes here despite all the assists and chances created and such before.
Sheffield United: David McGoldrick
There are definitely far worse ways to score your first Premier League goals than netting two in a 3-0 win over Chelsea that lifts Sheffield United into the top six with three games to go.
Southampton: Stuart Armstrong
Three goals and no assists before lockdown, two goals and three assists since. Although in truth it’s more of a 2020 thing than a Project Restart thing. All his five goals and three assists have come since the turn of the year, which sounds like an impressive contribution until you remember that this year has in fact already been about four decades long.
Tottenham: Hugo Lloris
Spurs were a defensive shambles before the lockdown this season, with arch defensive coach Jose Mourinho unable to make any marked improvement from the dog days of the Poch era. Between them, they oversaw a team that conceded 40 goals in 29 games before the interruption. Spurs have mainly been just as crap at the back since the restart, as evidenced by the ludicrous ease with which Sheffield United were able to pass the ball around them not once, not twice but thrice. Ludicrously, though, the only other goals Spurs have conceded since the restart were a Bruno Fernandes penalty and long-range spankers from Alexandre Lacazette and Matt Ritchie after Serge Aurier errors. Lloris, a walking error leading to a goal in the first part of the season – even managing to put himself out for 15 games with an elbow injury suffered during one such calamity – has been faultless. Having kept two clean sheets in 13 Premier League games before lockdown, he’s kept three in seven since. And had an on-field fight with a team-mate which all the pundits and his manager agreed was A Good Thing.
Watford: Craig Dawson
You can pop over to Steady the boffin’s weekend Winners and Losers for the full numbers, but suffice to say Craig Dawson is having all the shots. Pearsonball, that.
West Ham: Michail Antonio
Was already performing admirably in a seemingly thankless lone striker role for a very bad side before making his mark in the unexpected but hugely welcome victory over Chelsea and then making his mark even markier with all four goals against Norwich. If West Ham do complete the job and stay up despite themselves, Antonio looks like being the hero. Sorry, Moyesy. Yes, yes. I know, it was your idea, very good, well done.
Wolves: Leander Dendoncker
Two goals in 29 Premier League games before. Two goals in seven after. That’s over four times better. You cannot argue with maths.