Top football coaches are making no secret of their disappointment, and possibly a touch of anger, aimed at the Premier League’s big wigs who the managers feel are putting money ahead of player welfare. With the current fixtures schedule players have no time to recover between, and the result is an endless list of injuries with the current champions; Liverpool perhaps hit the hardest.
With teams not at full strength and having to rotate to cope with the current number of games, the league is as unpredictable as it was back in the days of the 1st division.
The unpredictable days of the English 1st division
When the 1st division was in action prior to the Premier League, the topflight had 24 teams, 2 cups, and 3 European competitions if you include the Cup Winners Cup and Anglo. Squads were much smaller back then with a key 12 to 14 players, while today clubs have up 20 key players rotating.
Teams were regularly hit with major injuries to their star strikers, midfielders, and defenders, while goalkeepers were as solid as rock. Most of the top teams relied on star strikers back then, and if that player was injured, the odds at the bookmakers would wildly change as would the team’s league table positions.
The current situation in the Premier League means that teams that would normally have plenty of time to rest all squad members and rotate them by carefully managing their game time are unable to do so as efficiently as before. It shows too as teams like Liverpool who would arguably be running away with the league right now are not able to pull away.
Teams that reply on high pressure and fitness, not performing
Teams like Manchester City are also underperforming due to tired legs. Winners such as City and Liverpool have managers that expect a certain work rate every game. However, the players need to put in that same work rate 2 and sometimes 3 times per week. The pressure on the player’s bodies begins to mount up and either injuries ensue, or the players just cannot perform at their best.
Comparing bookmakers by individual markets shows that even they agree with the situation. Liverpool’s short odds of winning the league are gradually getting longer. It seems that Liverpool are no longer runaway contenders and many bookmakers may have to activate their ‘guaranteed odds’ agreement with customers who placed a bet at shorter odds at the start of the season on teams like Liverpool or Man City winning the league again.
In-Play odds are also unpredictable. The game can be ticking along smoothly but tired legs means far more rash challenges meaning more sending’s off, yellow cards, and penalties. Meanwhile, another in-play ‘odds changer’ is when players are injured out of the blue, such as Virgil van Dijk’s injury in the Everton game, which turned the game on its head.
Money from TV rights is to blame
One of the problems is that TV rights are already paid in full. The Premier League also feels that it is ok for such a rigorous schedule because a large portion of the TV money goes to the clubs. As such, the Premier League organisers seem to remain relentless and unforgiving with its games’ schedule, One reason suggested why the fixture schedule has to be so heavy on the teams is to make up for the league’s recent financial losses because of long postponements.
We recently saw the shortest winter break in English top flight football, yet the players had a long period of time off while the league was not in action. However, the issue for the managers is that there is no recovery time between games, which negates any time off the players had while the league was postponed.
There seems to be a simple solution to this, and that is to allow managers in the Premier League to have 5 substitutions. Yet, the majority of clubs voted against it, which is why the league still only has 3 substitutions in action. The simple solution for clubs like Liverpool is to dip into the transfer market as are Chelsea who know they need extras to survive this season and the club could be interested in Lionel Messi.
As such, the unpredictable odds and results are set to continue making this year’s Premier League as interesting as the old topflight English Division 1!