The festive fixtures. Why are we still doing this? Why is the Premier League the only daft one left fucking about with thermals and gloves and whatever snood Samir Nasri left behind on the many benches he occupied?? What exactly is the point of watching substitutes knock about a ball on water logged pitches enclosed by a Castle Black sized wall of fog?! Oh yeah, #money.
It’s always the money. She rules and the gods know the FA is the most whorish of the lot.
Now, listen, I’m not one to be described as naïve. The fact that I so rarely am found to be may qualify as my most prized trait. So, I understand the brass tacks here: absolutely nothing goes before the money.
But, is all the TV revenue and eyes on the screens all over the world worth it? Are the fans seeing a quality we can be proud of? What exact value are we placing on the fallout from having so many matches in such a short space of time? The answer to the most latter of questions is, unfortunately, zero.
Across Europe the pitches lay bare. They are watered and treated and freshly painted. The stands and terraces are empty. The stadia are cleaned. Parking lots and tumbleweeds cavort. The managers? Preparing for the second half of seasons unburdened by tactical overviews of upcoming matches. The footballers? Well, those men are flown all over the globe spending time with their families over the holidays. They then hop on different, yet just as extravagant, planes and meet their teammates in the scorching climes of the Middle East or Southern Europe. I mean, contrary to questionable facial hair and tattoo choices, Lionel Messi enjoys a tan, too, bruv. He is human.
In Germany, a month off (it is slightly shortened this go round to lengthen early summer preparations for the upcoming World Cup they are trying to retain). In The Netherlands, almost a month off. In France, more than three weeks off. In Spain, almost three weeks off. In Italy, a similar almost three week lay off. Even Scotland has seen the light and is taking four weeks off! Scotland! You know when Scottish folk are like “nahhhhhh not really in the mood to be outside playing sports” it’s time to just succumb and follow suit.
But in England and Wales? Not only will you not be afforded a break, you will play MORE matches with FEWER days off. It’s a nonsense of such a high degree.
The players and managers of the Premier League have called for it. The fans are on board. But nothing penetrates the most sturdy back line of DOLLAR DOLLAR BILLS Y’ALL.
And here are the consequences of which I blame nobody but the FA and those in power who ignore said consequences: managers field weakened teams, players get injured and matches fall victim to the even more extreme piss poor weather conditions of a country famous for its year round piss poor weather conditions. #GodSave
And I know what you’re sat there thinking: counselor, does thou have thy evidence old chap? *dusts juris doctorate off* Allow me to highlight some of the more noteworthy offenses…
Mark Hughes fielded a weakened team against Chelsea because he claimed his Stoke City side needed to focus on the supposedly more winnable Newcastle match just two days later. I really don’t blame him. It’s a massive risk, especially if it doesn’t pay off, but I sincerely comprehend Hughes’s thinking. A mentality he is forced into with his players getting an amateur amount of rest (read: none) in between vital ties. Stoke end up getting annihilated by Chelsea 5-0. A result that had major effects on the top 4 race (an easy victory for Chelsea combined with a major uptick in their goal difference) and Stoke’s now new relegation fight. Hughes then watched his charges get beaten by Newcastle at home leaving him to the wolves for a gamble that ultimately back fired.
Why are we paying to watch this? Is this truly the quality we want to broadcast to the world for a few extra pound sterling in everyone’s pockets? Do fans in Asia and the Americas care about the Stoke City reserves?? Do fans in Africa and the poles want to watch Danny Drinkwater hold down a Chelsea midfield behind a false 9?? Does anybody in Stoke and West London want to even watch this tat?! Spoiler alert: they ruddy well don’t. But we all have no choice because players are injured, they are tired and gargantuan decisions like the Hughes one need to be made.
It simply isn’t beneficial for the brand to be saturating television screens with mediocre product. The players need rest. Look at Manchester United: they played four times in 9 days. They lost both of their forwards, Romelu Lukaku and Zlatan Ibrahimović to injury. They lost defender Chris Smalling to injury. Stalwart midfielder Nemanja Matić is injured but is playing hurt crawling about at a pace that makes us all on the couch seem like the Jamaican relay team because he knows there are no midfielders on the bench (United switched to a three central midfield base bringing in Ander Herrera, thus, allowing Paul Pogba to roam free further upfield).
And look at Liverpool: they played three times in 7 days. The consequence was that in a crunch top 7 matchup with a strong Burnley side away, Jürgen Klopp rested Roberto Firmino, Philippe Coutinho and superstar and currently the leading candidate for player of the season Mohamed Salah in order to protect them. Klopp knew it was too much and the risk of him losing his best players was worth the possibility of dropped points (which was about to happen but for a 94th minute goalmouth scramble that secured the victory for the Reds). Luckily for Liverpool, and the other bigger clubs with impressive depths, they have reasonable quality to substitute in. You don’t have that luxury further down the table. The top players need to play on no rest and you accept the results.
Is this what fans are spending enormous amounts of hard earned money to watch for? It’s not. A Burnley v Liverpool tie should have been front and center. Two clubs battling for European places. The Cinderellas of Burnley proving they can hang and play with anyone and a Liverpool side desperate to seize on their current star power to add to their stalled silverware collection. But what they got was the substandard Dominic Solanke and Adam Lallana failing to break down a beleaguered Burnley defence led by Ben Mee. #yikes
Splendid job, Premier League.
Injuries happen. It’s part of the game. But why are we exacerbating the issue in an already physically brutal league? It genuinely doesn’t make sense.
As for the weather? I couldn’t even see the ball in the Southampton v Crystal Palace game. A crucial match for relegation purposes, mind you. The pitch for Swansea v Tottenham was brown. I have an inkling that green is the color we are all shooting for here. Maybe the linesman sees Fernando Llorente a yard offside for Spurs’ opening goal if his eyes aren’t getting lashed by the hail/rain/sleet/hurricane. Although knowing Premier League refereeing of late, probably not. #banter
I understand you don’t say no to lucrative financial deals. The eyes of football fans worldwide are on the Premier League as the only game in town. The pubs are full. People have time off. It’s the happy time of year. I am aware that throwing the most watched sports league in the galaxy on gargantuan screens for ten days straight is a smart move for the higher ups. I get it. But that doesn’t mean it’s right. That doesn’t mean that it’s worthwhile.
There are solutions. Beginning the season a week earlier. Playing more midweek games in the Spring (keep in mind most of the Premier League teams aren’t involved in cup competitions past February and March). Hell, if we get rid of the money grabbing and utterly useless international friendly weeks, we can just play pertinent football then! There are legitimate and easy resolutions to this farcical predicament.
But no one is listening. Not now and certainly not at any time in the future. West Ham are linked with a Borussia Dortmund striker. Huddersfield Town just signed a Monaco defender!! The smaller teams can now go in for players they could normally only dream about with their new financial muscle. Subsequently, there won’t be any complaining from them. Or anybody minding the check books.
Unfortunately, there’s no pride and dignity in what they’re putting forward. The money speaks louder than the quality the fans and players deserve. I’m just an enthusiast from England and I find it embarrassing that this is what the people in so many countries are watching. I can’t be proud of this. This isn’t the example of the properly beautiful game that thrives all over Britain. This is not that. We all deserve that.
So, please make it stop.