The media loves a good manager tiff, especially if one or more of the “Big 6” clubs are involved. Unsurprisingly, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp and Chelsea manager Frank Lampard found themselves in a media-fueled war of words following last year’s 5-3 Liverpool win at Anfield.
Although Lampard came out of the exchange looking considerably worse in the eyes of many Reds, it’s important to also pay attention to the things upon which managers agree. Namely: the horrible scheduling by the Premier League.
This year, Klopp, Pep Guardiola, and Ole Gunnar Solskjær all coming out against poor scheduling. And now we can add Lampard to the growing list.
“The fact it’s two games in 48 hours is an important point for us because there are other teams who are challenging at the top of the League that play two games in three days,” Lampard said.
“Manchester United, Tottenham, Liverpool play two games in three days.”
Traditionally, the league has been poor about allowing proper rest and recovery periods, especially for clubs in Europe. That situation has been exacerbated this year because of the condensed schedule due to COVID, and the refusal to continue with 5 substitutes as other European leagues have done.
Unsurprisingly, there has been a major up-tick in injuries in English football.
“It’s counter-productive for the quality of the Premier League,” Lampard continued. “It’s a risk for players if they are going to play both games at the top-end elite sport, everybody knows that.
“I know sometimes the blame can be put on the broadcasters and I know that in conjunction with each other, and this was bounced around, it got decided that we play twice in 48 hours when other teams that are challenging at the top of the league play twice in three days, an extra 24 hours recovery.
“I don’t see how it’s a fair playing field, I think it’s wrong and it’s not going to be the best for the players to play at their top level.”
When Klopp raised this issue in the past, the media spun it as an unreasonable complaint by the German manager. While there is the temptation to do the same—partisanship in sports is a hell of a drug—it’s important to amplify Lampard’s point.
Just because the holiday fixture list is kind to us this year, doesn’t mean that scheduling two games in 48 hours isn’t problematic. This is doubly true this year, with recovery time in short supplies, and injuries on the rise.
Moreover, there needs to be a reevaluation of the current English schedule from top to bottom. Whether we are talking about the noon kickoff on Saturdays after a Wednesday night match in Europe, or preventable scheduling conflicts (i.e. the Club World Cup), or the busy holiday schedule, there needs to be more time for rest and recovery.
Unfortunately, this will probably be painted as “sour grapes” from the Chelsea manager. Or an excuse, should he fail to win both matches within 48 hours. But it shouldn’t be. English football should take these issues seriously. Injuries have deprived us the pleasure of watching some of the best players in the world this season. And collective exhaustion will surely deprive us of a great deal of excellent football this season.