Some elements of the football are strange, but the return of the Bundesliga - from the quality of the matches to the skill of the broadcasters - was a success.
If you watched one of this weekend’s matches side-by-side with a match that took place before lockdown, both muted, you wouldn’t notice a lot of difference.
Small distinctions from the standard fare – the staggered arrival of the players on the pitch, the mask-wearing substitutes – warranted nothing more than a passing thought, and soon became an irrelevance.
Those who allowed such trivial matters to affect their enjoyment of the game are surely those who had already nailed their colours to the mast of disapproval. Nobody with an appetite for these games could have found themselves switching over, outraged that Jadon Sancho couldn’t sit in the seat next to Mario Gotze on the Dortmund ‘bench’.
There were, of course, some major contrasts.
The eerie silence, punctuated by bellows from coaches and players, does provide a training-ground atmosphere, although that is just in terms of perception rather than objective analysis of the football; the quality of the games were high.
Even so, perhaps some artificial crowd noise – which worked surprisingly well in the K League a week earlier – could be worthwhile.
It is a shame, too, that goal celebrations were watered down to this extent, but it should be quite obvious that these are small prices to pay to get the game moving again.
The best teams win even more
When you strip the game back to its most basic form, a football game of 11v11 will almost always be won by the superior set of players.
For an upset to be caused, as many neutralising factors as possible need to be thrown into the equation. That is why David beats Goliath far more often in front of boisterous supporters on home turf, and quite often when Goliath was playing in Europe in midweek.
With the conditions under which the Bundesliga was played this weekend sanitised to the extreme, it felt less likely that something unusual would happen.
All metrics other than the scoreline suggest that RB Leipzig outplayed Freiburg, while Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and Borussia Monchengladbach won their games with plenty in the tank.
It was interesting, too, that Dortmund were the only home winners on Saturday and Sunday. It seems that, in behind closed doors football, little will be able to prevent games from being decided by the better team being better.
No shortage of entertainment
Gamblers will have been looking for signs that this version of the sport resulted in a decline of high-tempo matches and blood-and-thunder challenges, but the difference was minimal.
The combined average of Bundesliga teams’ cards tally this season is 35.74, with the combined average goals tally at 29.06.
This weekend saw 33 cards and 22 goals, with one match to play – about average.
There was a relentless tempo to several of the games.
Borussia Dortmund were queuing up to score more than the four they eventually put past Schalke, while RB Leipzig v Freiburg and Cologne v Mainz both could have gone either way until the last kick.
It seems that the atmosphere may play more on the viewers’ minds than the players’.
BT Sport deliver from their own homes
BT Sport employees were not just working on broadcasting every Bundesliga match off-tube, they were doing it from their own living rooms.
Other than those in the studio with James Richardson and Raphael Honigstein, the off-mic talent – producers and directors – knitting the show together were totally at the mercy of the technology on a weekend when hundreds of thousands of more people were tuning in to live German football than ever before.
That hardly anything appeared to go wrong is remarkable.
Commentators and co-commentators, whose chemistry usually relies on eye contact, were also in different locations entirely.
Other than when they occasionally spoke over each other, you wouldn’t have known, although it’s a good job that Paul Dempsey’s doorbell isn’t louder:
I can reveal that Paul Dempsey’s commentary from home of Dortmund v Schalke in Bundesliga yesterday on @btsportfootball was nearly halted when a man from Tesco supermarket kept banging in his front door. Not much time to get the groceries between those 4 goals !!
— Ian Darke (@IanDarke) May 17, 2020
At a time when the broadcasters are equally as fundamental as the players, it should be remembered that the latter are receiving special treatment and the former generally aren’t.
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