Already this season, Liverpool have played 41 games. By the time everything is said and done, and even after falling out of the FA Cup, they could play as many as 63 times this season. Playing twice a week, with barely a chance to recover and prepare for the next match, has been the norm since Jürgen Klopp took over in the autumn.
The Liverpool manager has made no secret of his belief that there are too many games in England, and it’s an opinion shared by many managers looking to compete in both the league, domestic cups, and Europe. Other leagues get a winter break. Other leagues see their schedules tweaked to give European sides more rest. Other leagues don’t have two domestic cups.
It seems those complaints may finally have registered, with The Telegraph reporting that the FA and Premier League are currently discussing options for decreasing fixture congestion for the top English sides. On the table in the early stages are two key proposals: doing away with FA Cup replays, and making the League Cup semi-final a one-match affair.
Doing so this season would have meant just three fewer games for Liverpool, but it would have meant three extra full weeks off for the club over a jam packed December and January, a time when the club—perhaps not coincidentally—were wracked by a seemingly endless string of hamstring injuries. It seems a change that should have come a long time ago.
Some traditionalists may baulk at the idea of change—any change—but Premier League sides are at a disadvantage in Europe because of how many extra games they play. With England at risk of falling to fourth in UEFA rankings and losing a lucrative Champions League place because of it, though, it’s well past time to look at making such changes.
England may be the richest league in the world, with even mid-table sides able to attract talent that would be in top sides elsewhere, but if English clubs cannot compete in Europe because of their overloaded domestic schedules, in the long run the league will fade. Axing replays and making the League Cup semi-final a single match seems the least that could be done.
Hopefully the league and FA will see sense—and if nothing else, self-interest might be what gets it done—and make changes in time for the 2016-17 season.