Jose Mourinho often spoke about his culture shock when moving to English football. At Porto, if they were in Europe that week, their domestic match would be moved to Friday. At Chelsea the schedule was Tuesday – Saturday/ Sunday/Wednesday no matter the situation. It tells you the different priorities of the respective associations. In Portugal, their clubs are representing their county so want to help them as much as possible.
The FA and Premier League, while wanting one of their own to win a Champions League/Europa League (for commercial reasons) are dictated by their TV contracts. To be fair, 20 clubs are sharing a deal worth billions, so the least they can do is to show up where and when they are told. I should also clarify I am not one who believes in players needing a rest.
It’s becoming a Xmas tradition to have Klopp and Guardiola insist their men can’t play 3 games a week, despite that being the case for decades and not preventing doubles and trebles being achieved. I respect thousands are spent on the best doctors who have the data to say whose body is doing what, but it seems to mentally be making players weaker?
So, I don’t agree any team needs help garnering an unfair advantage, which is what Jose has been asking for. Ideally, if you’re playing the same day as your midweek opponent, that’s fair as it’s a level playing field. What organisers shouldn’t do is arrange fixtures which puts you in a disadvantage. Bizarrely Arsenal will be playing Monday night, despite everyone knowing since the draw was made they are due to face Sporting Lisbon 3 nights later. It wouldn’t be an issue if Lisbon were also doing double duty in midweek but they play on Saturday.
Any sport should as best it can create a level playing field. On paper in our hardest tie in the group we only have two whole days to prepare, compared to Lisbon’s 4 and we are the ones who are travelling! Again, I’m not saying a professional sportsman can’t handle that schedule but why put us in that situation if it is avoidable?
Like most things, it’s all dictated by money. There’s a reason we haven’t complained about this, which we are entitled to do. Stan Kroenke won’t care, if Sky and BT continues to put cash in the bank, he couldn’t care less.
Surely though between the Gunners, Leicester, Sky and the Premier League there are smart enough people to have found a compromise where all parties get their way? Would Friday Night Football be any less appealing then Monday Night? While I’m sure there is analytical data to say why they want Chelsea vs Man United midday Saturday, are your ratings going to take that big a hit if you swapped us round with Everton vs Palace? We are one of the best supported sides in the world so it’s not like what day we are live determines TV ratings. Your offering from Goodison Park is hardly wetting the appetite for the neutral. So, swap Sunday’s TV line up with Monday’s and no one loses.
Of course, it’s likely that Unai Emery has always planned to rotate his squad, so this might not cost us a result but it’s still not ideal preparation. With 6 points on the board, what if the Spaniard feels this is a game where he might need a stronger 11 then previous? What if he feels our second string are not as good as Lisbon’s strongest? What if he wants to secure qualification as quick as possible so he can blood youth in the final 2 games of the group? What if we didn’t have 2 options for each position and were a small squad wanting to take Europe seriously? Maybe in that instance we would have challenged this? We are in a strong enough position where it’s not the end of the world if we dropped points next Thursday so prioritise the League either side of that.
I’m just not sure why we have been put into this predicament?