Players Get No Downtime with Full Season of Football
The season was already going to be a packed with the 2022 World Cup being held in Qatar this winter. Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral makes an already congested season even worse for the top clubs in the Premier League.
Along with Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, and Liverpool will face a jam-packed second half of the season since they each had two matches postponed due to the Queen’s funeral. All four clubs had two matches postponed due to policing issues and I want to get it because it’s clearly a big deal in England, but as someone from across the pond I just don’t. We don’t cancel or postpone games unless there’s a weather warning (and even then, I’ve seen the Bills play through blizzard-like conditions).
With the World Cup effectively halting the season from in November and December, it’ll be extremely difficult to reschedule United’s matches before the tournament. Our match against Leeds was one of the affected fixtures, called off because the Greater Manchester police would support police forces throughout the UK “at locations and events of high significance following the passing of [the Queen].” Despite the match not being anywhere near London, it needs a vast amount of resources because it’s one of the oldest, ugliest rivalries in English football.
When Can the Matches be Rescheduled?
The obvious answer seems to be after the World Cup, but we’re not really sure when specifically. Let’s actually start off by looking at the already congested season before things kick off and wrap up in Qatar. Every mid-week after this international break is currently occupied by European fixtures, League Cup matches, and other Premier League matches. English football will resume just two days after the World Cup final — from Dec. 20th — with matches scheduled for the League Cup fourth round and the next set of Premier League fixtures.
There are only three weeks in 2023 with no football during the mid-week so that should be the obvious solution, to play the matches during those weeks, but it’s not that simple.
Teams out of Europe/Cup ties can use those weeks, but it’s tricky if that specific league match broadcast conflicts with a European/Cup tie.
Furthermore, the clubs that progress to the League Cup final (Feb 26th), and FA Cup quarterfinals and semis (March 18th and April 22nd respectively) will probably need to reschedule any Premier League matches they have during those weeks, so they’d have used those vacant mid-weeks for these fixtures, and that’s not even factoring in the European ties. It’s also worth pointing out that we’re not the giants we once were so there is a chance that we wouldn’t make it that far in Europe, but that’s not the point. The point is, we suddenly find ourselves having to deal with too much football with not enough time for players to rest and recharge between matches; some really warped version of “too much of a good thing” because in what reality did we actually think we’d complain about having too much football to watch?
What’s the Answer?
In short, we don’t know. We could fit everything into the vacant mid-weeks, but it won’t work if United stay in all competitions. There wouldn’t be space.
Another solution is to just cancel third- and fourth-round FA Cup replays, as was the case during Covid-19. We could potentially look at having a one-legged round of Carabao Cup semifinals instead of two, too.
We’ve got a congested season of football ahead and we’d be right to worry about our players – they’re not getting any younger and it’s clear to see that we lack the depth to play Ten Hag’s preferred style of pressing, high-volume runs.
We’ll know our European fixtures on November 7th and we’ll have a better idea of the season ahead by then. We know for sure that extending the season isn’t an option, though. There is an international round of matches reserved for the Euro 2024 qualifiers after the FA Cup and European Cup finals.