THE WOES OF PREMIER LEAGUE FIXTURE CONGESTION.

Jam-packed fixtures in the English top-flight, especially in December is nothing new. Coaches, past and present have, at different times lamented about player readiness both mentally and physically, given such jam-packed fixture lists.

In the current EPL season, Manchester City in their quest to retain to Premier League crown playedWolves at the Molineux Stadiumtwo days after Christmas (December 27) at 7:45p.m kick-off, and then faced Sheffield United at the Etihad at 6pm on December 29, barely 46hrs 15minutes time –difference.

Responding to such fixture congestion, Pep Guardiola, the Man City Manager joked that he had to place the players in a fridge for them to be fit for the Match against Sheffield. Jose Mourinho was also reported by Hein Vanhaezebrouckof Het Nieuwsbladto have stressed during a UEFA conference that no Premier League Coach is pleased with the arrangement of having to play several games within a short period of time, but that the Coaches can do little or nothing about it as this is one area that generates revenue for the League.

Players’ workload in the EPL is the highest in Europe. While Ligue 1 clubs start to enjoy festive rest from December 20, teams in Serie A as well as La Liga also have structured breaks during the period. In the 2015/2016 footballing season, Premier League teams played an alarming 74 matches more than their Bundesliga counterparts, even though the German league featured just 18 teams.

While some pundits and sport researchers have stressed the importance players’ rotation, to keep players all fit,it is important to note that only English big spenders can afford to keep a big squad with depth, given the heavy wage commitments in football nowadays. For example, several big clubs have mostly opted for a number of fringe players and teenagers from the youth teams to feature in certain cup ties.

How much rest does a Player need?

While the EPL’s high intensity and fixture congestion has been greatly bemoaned by many. Former Sunderland, Westham, Everton and England boss, Sam Allardyce stressed that it takes a playerat least four days to recover between games.

This came after Sunderland’s midfielderJohn O’Shea limped off due toa recurringcalf problem in January of 2015/2016 season. Asides the physical side to the game, congested fixture often leaves the players mentally unfit for subsequent matches.

As reported by Mitchell Smith a sport psychologist with the Technology University in Sydney, mental fatigue will almost definitely impact performance, especially when the fatigue is accumulated over a football season, as seen in the case of EPL teams. Mental fatigue has a negative effect on shooting, speed and even passing abilities, all of which are crucial to attaining the glory in Europe.

While there are claims that EPL players earn a lot and so must be prepared to offer a lot, it is important to note that jam-packed fixtures also influences performance in European competitions. Infact, it is difficult to rule out the relationship between overall EPL fixtures, and how EPL teams fare in Europe.

This is because prior to the Wanda Metropolitano final between Totthenham Hotspur and Liverpool in 2019, and Liverpool’s loss to Real Madrid in 2018, an English team last made it to the finals in 2011-2012 when Chelsea defeated Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena in Munich.

As we continue in the second half of the 2019/2020 season, discussions which commenced early 2018 are still ongoing on the possibility of introducing mid-season break in English football. Whether this will see the light of day is something EPL lovers will look forward to.

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