december fixture scheduling

December massive fixture scheduling: pros and cons

The relentless fixture schedule across English football this festive season has unquestionably been a hot topic of contention, with many managers voicing their frustration about the grueling period.

The likes of Pep Guardiola, Antonio Conte, Arsene Wenger and Alan Pardew have all complained about it, as they clearly feel playing so many games in rapid succession is having an extremely detrimental affect on their players, while the fixturing also advantages some more than others.

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A distinct lack of recovery time inherently elevates a player’s chance of injury, thus leaving them suffering exhaustion due to the cumulative impact of playing so many games without adequate recovery. In addition, having to manage the travel demands definitely hasn’t helped things either. With teams forced to rotate their lineups to combat this, it’s putting huge strains on squad depth and subsequently leading to plenty of erratic and inconsistent results for many. Upon considering this, it’s entirely understandable why numerous coaches are unhappy with the way things are at present.

“If you tell me that technically, physically it’s good for the players – no, it’s a disaster,” asserted Guardiola. “But the league is the league. They decide at Christmas times to do that, and of course we are going to adapt“.

“Sometimes you have three days’ recovery, sometimes four, sometimes two, everybody is the same. Last season we had less recovery than this season, maybe next season we will have a little more. This kind of thing I can give my opinion, but do you believe I am going to get them to change something? No way“.

While this is commonplace in the physically demanding Premier League, Napoli’s manager, Maurizio Sarri, has commented on his issues coping with a stacked schedule and how it’s a huge hindrance for his men, especially when playing against teams who have had far greater rest. He even labelled the situation he faces as like playing a different sport due to what he believes is an uneven set of circumstances his fatigued team are regularly confronted with.

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The stats tell a fascinating story too, with injury data analyst, Ben Dinnery, recently telling the BBC that injuries have increased by a whopping 32% in December and that soft tissue injuries have jumped up by 45% in December, in comparison with the other months of the season.

“Medical research tells us the more minutes you play, the more injuries are likely to occur. The optimum recovery for players is between 48 and 72 hours, otherwise players become more susceptible to muscular injuries and fatigue,” Dinnery then added.

While the Premier League swiftly defended their position by saying that the clubs had the opportunity to oppose the fixturing prior to the season beginning, their keenness to persist with these quickfire matches clearly has much to do with ensuring the television broadcasters’ desire to keep this tradition alive.

With so many factors to consider and a resolution to this phenomenon looking unlikely, the debate surrounding this complicated topic will surely rage on for many more seasons to come.

Edward Stratmann

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