Embrace the Eccentric Premier League: Richard Buxton
Covid-19 proving to be a leveller for the league's lesser lights
EPL usually stands for the English Premier League, although it would also be quite apt now to call it the Eccentric Premier League.
Goals are flying in at will and the previous top teams of the self-proclaimed "greatest league in the world" already find themselves dislodged after the season's opening month.
Those clinging to the comfort of familiarity will claim that the heavy defeats inflicted upon Manchester United and Liverpool last weekend are proof that "the game's gone".
A combined 13 goals shipped by the country's two most successful teams is not a coincidence, nor is it likely to be an anomaly, if the current trends are a reliable indicator.
Before the start of the new campaign, upwards of 40 goals had been scored on four match weeks in the EPL's 28-year history, with no consistent pattern or time frame.
Twice in the space of three weeks, however, the 2020/21 campaign has now contributed to those lofty tallies.
Covid-19's continuing impact on squads is an undeniable factor with the reigning champions affected far more than their peers. The Reds trio of Sadio Mane, Thiago Alcantara and Xherdan Shaqiri all tested positive for the virus in the past week.
Juergen Klopp's side has been brought back down to earth, after spending the previous two seasons operating on a superhuman level. That handicapping has allowed the EPL's chasing pack and previous underlings to belatedly assume centre stage in their place.
Not since the mid-1980s have Everton and Aston Villa occupied the league's top two places. The team that sits directly behind them serve as a reminder of why the current unpredictability should receive warm embrace over cold condemnation.
Leicester City's unlikely title triumph in the 2015/2016 campaign was supposed to be a catalyst for change but instead proved an outlier. Their 5,000-1 shot coming to fruition forced the EPL's big hitters to double down and prevent the remarkable feat from being repeated.
To stop other teams like the Foxes infiltrating their domicile, they committed to spending bigger and going harder.
As a result, the ceiling to be crowned champions was raised exponentially as point tallies and margins reached near-untouchable levels.
But the current pandemic has provided something of a level playing field.
Supporters' absence from stadiums allows decisions in closed-doors games to be carried out largely using rationale instead of being clouded by backdrops of shrieking partisanship.
Referees no longer feel the pressure of having The Kop or Stretford End collectively breathing down their neck when attempting to make vitals calls and consulting the video assistant referee.
The absence of home advantage has also allowed teams to play without fear.
Everton, whose seven straight wins represent their best start in over 100 years, know better than most how the visceral nature of the Goodison Park crowd occasionally inhibits their own players.
Playing football in highly sanitised surroundings, which are set to remain par for the course until March next year, at least, is far from ideal. Yet, it offers an insight into what the EPL could, and really should be - devoid of foregone conclusions and hackneyed narratives.
This pandemic has split people into two categories - those who yearn for the previous status quo and those that roll with the changes.
If more teams join Leicester in breaking the top-six stranglehold, bring on the bedlam.