Do you remember the days when Arsenal used to play a game every Saturday? In fact every single game in all divisions kicked off at 3 pm on a Saturday, and we got the results at around 5.30 and we watched the highlights on Match of the day, before the TV started mucking about with the fixtures so that we could watch live games.
There were League games on a Saturday, and Cup games or European games (which only involved the Champions and the Cup Wnners and were straight knockout games) on the occasional Wednesday. Maybe players weren’t as fit in those days or paid as much, but we certainly didn’t need such big squads. My memory may be wrong but I think Liverpool won the League and European Cup in 1977, and got to the Final of the FA Cup by only using about 18 players in the whole season. The game was much more physical and the pitches were much more ridiculous and there were only a couple of subs in each game. Also International games were few and far between and usually in the close season.
Then the TV companies got involved and we started playing early kick-offs, Sunday games, and then they brought in Monday Night Football, then Fridays, and now we have live games every day of the week and three at least on every Saturday and Sunday.
Since we played catchup after Covid the games have been nearly every three days as we caught up, then there was straight into the Euros, then the new compacted season because the World Cup is in mid-season, plus international breaks, plus European Group games, and you could be playing at any time on any day.
Nowadays there are 8 English teams playing in Europe every season, and with Group games and knockouts. If you get to the Final of the Europa League it means playing 16 extra games to get there…
The injuries need to be managed and you need a much bigger squad and if you’re a top player there has been no rest between competitions for a whole year.
I know the Arsenal Womens teams play much less League games than the men generally, but last week it was reported that the Lionesses (with many Arsenal players) had gone unbeaten in 2022, a total of 26 games. That is the equivalent to a game every fortnight! That is on top of the League, European and FA Cup games. That seems like a bit too much for any body to survive. And the men play even more!
It may suit the TV companies and some fans who just want to watch football every day, but is it just too much for the players and could it shorten their careers because of burnout? Do footballers have to be machines to survive every seaon?
Is this progress or overkill? I just don’t know the answer. What do you think?