Premier League's strange restart: Luiz's howler and understanding new substitution rules

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Riyad Mahrez and David Luiz (Getty Images)
Riyad Mahrez and David Luiz (Getty Images)

The Premier League's much-anticipated restart was unlike what everyone expected it to be from the in-studio football analysts to the teams walking out of the tunnel before kick-off.

Usually gathered in front of a huge screen analysing players and past matches, Wednesday's opening encounter between Aston Villa and Sheffield United saw former Liverpool ace Michael Owen and Arsenal legend Ian Wright sitting approximately 1.5 metres apart due to the social distancing rules in order to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

It was our first sign of the "new normal" when it comes to the Premier League and everyone who watches the matches week-in and week-out either at the stadiums or at home.

Here are some key highlights that stood out after Wednesday night's action:

The substitution rules

In the first of its kind, teams are now allowed to make five substitutions instead of the usual three.

However, while the number of substitutions may have increased, managers will only have three opportunities to make these changes in order to minimize disruption during matches.

In their goalless draw, Aston Villa opted to just make three changes while Sheffield took the opportunity to make four changes.

It was only during Manchester City's 3-0 victory over Arsenal where all 10 substitutions were used and enforced due to injuries.

Injury concerns

With no football having played for 100 days, it was inevitable that some players would be rusty and undercooked having spent so much time in quarantine.

Wednesday's main event clash between City and Arsenal started off with the Gunners dominating the opening 20 minutes but it was as early as the seventh minute where Granit Xhaka's awkward fall resulted in the Swiss international being replaced by Dani Ceballos due to injury.

Gunners fans saw glimpses of why Pablo Mari was brought in by Mikel Arteta only for the defender to be replaced by David Luiz because of a hamstring problem.

Eric Garcia's clash with his team-mate and City goalkeeper Ederson was then not one for the faint heart to witness as the 19-year-old was stretchered off and placed in a neck brace.

David Luiz’s decision making

The Brazilian international was at fault for the first two goals and he had been on the field for less than 25 minutes before he was shown a red card.

Raheem Sterling's stunning strike late in the first half would not have happened if Luiz had his footing under control before he could only knee the ball into the path of a Man City winger.

The second goal saw the defender foul Riyad Mahrez in the penalty area and he was rightly given his marching orders.

"It's not the team's fault, it was my fault," Luiz told Sky Sports, whose broadcasting contract expires at the end of June.

"Today I think the team did well, especially with 10 men, the coach is amazing, the players did amazing, it's just my fault.

"I took the decision to play, I should have taken another decision in the last two months, but I didn't. It was all about my contract, whether I stay or not. I have 14 days to be here, and that's it. Today was my fault.”

Crowd noise and fans on screens

When the La Liga restarted, I was amazed at the automatically generated crowd noise that had been used in the television broadcast. It certainly had no impact when watching matches from home and, if anything, added an element familiarity to the viewing experience.

The same formula has been implemented by the Premier League and, on Wednesday night, Man City took it a step further by including fans on massive screens in their stadium who are watching the matches live from the comfort of their own homes.

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