Now, Trent Alexander-Arnold, one of the many players that has suffered a muscle injury that can at least be partially attributed to the brutal fixture list, has added his voice to the chorus of scheduling criticism in an interview with the Evening Standard.
“Not only has the calendar year been the strangest that anyone in football will have ever seen or been a part of, it is also the most intense which doesn’t make sense,” said Alexander-Arnold.
The young right-back explained that the abbreviated “off-season” and pre-season after rushing to complete the 2019-20 season made preparing for the start of the 20-21 campaign hard enough before even taking the piled up fixtures into account.
“At a time when we’ve had a three month lockdown, coming back and not being able to get fully fit as we would like to and having to play the remainder of the games, and then not getting much of a break - I think we got two weeks and then a ten day pre-season - and then straight back into the most competitive league in the world, it’s...difficult.”
Alexander-Arnold, who is an England international, then went into explanations of the numerous scheduling issues that have made this season very hard on players’ bodies, starting with the quick resumption of club play at the end of international breaks.
“The times of games, in terms of your last internationals coming back [before playing early on a Saturday] defies common sense really. Anyone with common sense would spot that that is something that cannot happen.”
Up next was the lack of recovery time allowed when teams have to play midweek and then again on the weekend. According to Trent, these quick turnarounds don’t provide adequate time for players to give their bodies a break.
“The teams that play midweek most weeks - I think Tottenham had recently where they played on the Thursday and then on Sunday at 12:00. There is not enough time to recover, your body cannot recover that quickly. Your muscles are going into it not being 100% and that is how you pick up injuries. Something has to change.”
One common theme we’ve seen when managers and players complain about not only the days of their matches, but the early kickoff times as well, is many of the uninitiated wondering how much difference playing in the earliest kickoff slot instead of one later in the day can actually make. For TAA, the answer to this question is easy.
“Massive, massive,” Alexander-Arnold said. “When you have got such a short time-frame to recover it makes a massive difference. Even with the timings for the early games, you’ve got to get up early, leave the hotel or home early to get to the stadium...there’s not enough time!”
Though it may be difficult for people who are not professional footballers to understand, the young Englishman was adamant that those extra few hours on Saturday or Sunday morning can be a godsend.
“It is tough to explain, you can feel it in your legs, those extra hours just to lounge around, not rushing in the morning, it has a big difference on how you recover and how you feel going into games.”
In what must be the most frustrating part of this whole situation, Alexander-Arnold also expressed his view that the spike in muscle injuries and fitness issues should have been entirely predictable, and more importantly, preventable.
“I think these problems could have really been predicted, anyone could have seen them coming,” said Alexander-Arnold. “Maybe not to this extent because it looks as if every club is feeling the harshness of the schedule, but you would expect this period to be coming around December and Christmas time because that is when it is the most intense, but for this to be happening so early in the season - eight games in - is far too early, it shows that something is not right.”
Perhaps the most disheartening bit from the interview is the way Alexander-Arnold sounds resigned to this, players not having enough time to recover between matches and non-contact injury rates continuing to rise as a result, just being the norm for this truncated campaign. Though he did make a half-hearted final plea to do something, anything, to ease the players’ burdens, it’s fairly clear that he believes the damage has already been done.
“As long as something happens soon, then it is better than nothing.”