Death, taxes, managers complaining about the tight scheduling during the Premier League’s festive fixtures — the certainties in life.
It’s Lampard’s turn at that wheel, with Chelsea facing the prospect of two games in 48 hours, today against Arsenal, away, and then home to Aston Villa on Monday. If you’ve followed the Premier League for any length of time, these complaints shouldn’t be at all unfamiliar.
“It’s two games in two days, 48 hours. I’m not trying to be clever, it’s an important point for us because there are other teams that are challenging at the top of the league that play two games in three days.
“Manchester United, Tottenham, Liverpool play two games in three or four days. It’s counterproductive for the quality of the Premier League, it’s a risk for players if they are going to play both games at top-end elite sport, everybody knows that.”
To be clear, Lampard’s argument isn’t (primarily) that the schedule is biased against us — in fact, we’ve had a relatively lengthy period of rest since West Ham, and will have another long gap after Monday’s game to next Sunday’s showdown against Manchester City — it’s rather that having teams play two games in three days should not be happening in the modern game anymore.
Of course, it’s not as easy as deciding to give teams a break. The festive schedule crunch is a Premier League calling card, and truly a tradition unlike any other. Even when the league decided to institute a (pseudo-)winter break, these fixtures were left untouched.
The other big part that’s unlikely to change anytime soon — and perhaps an even bigger factor than tradition — is the power of the UK broadcasters, who essentially have final say in exactly when the games get played, and move the league’s initial scheduling around. And this is especially true now that all games are being televised even in the UK.
Lampard acknowledges this, but what goes unsaid is that we can complain all we like, we also can’t bite the hand that feeds. This is the deal we made, and now we have to live with it. Until the Premier League implements their long-promised and overdue in-house streaming service, we will continue to be at the mercy of Sky, BT Sport, Amazon, and whoever else may hold the rights in the UK.
“I know clearly what happened with this one [...] we play Arsenal on Boxing Day, and our game with Man City now has been pushed to the Sunday (January 3). So the schedule meant that we couldn’t play, and Aston Villa also wanted to play on the Tuesday, they wanted an extra day, and so did we. But we got overruled by both the Premier League and the broadcasters.
“I have sympathy for the scheduling; I have sympathy for the difficult times [but] when you have two teams that are asking for a game to be played one day later to try to get their best players on the pitch as fit as they can, why would you not do that? That surprises me.”
-Frank Lampard; source: Goal
Are we actually surprised though? Are we really? Is Lampard, with over two decades of experience in the Premier League, as a player and now as a manager, really that surprised by this situation?
Probably not. But ‘this the season to complain about the schedule, and so we complain about the schedule. The airing of grievances, if you will.