It’s not really about the football anymore, is it? If you want to play a game, you have to check with the governing body, the broadcasters, the police, and probably the transport services just in case.
Jose Mourinho’s intention was right when he threatened to field an U21 side against Arsenal in the League Cup. Forget the matter of who’d come out on top between the two sides – that’s irrelevant. The matter is the act of defiance – which has apparently been withdrawn – for the shambles of forcing a club into two games within 48 hours.
One question that should be asked is what’s the point of the League Cup? Honestly? It’s sort of like asking people why the Premier League is the best. They really want to fight you on the matter but they’re not entirely sure where to start. Is there a need for a second domestic cup competition? Well yes, but only for the same reason that UEFA flirted with the idea of stretching Champions League weeks over a two-week period. Greater viewership and in turn money.
But it is farcical that the English football calendar doesn’t ever really have a break. Ok, those breaks do come in the form of international fixtures, but players are nonstop weekend-midweek-weekend-midweek for much of the campaign. And a winter break simply won’t be discussed, despite it being put in practise elsewhere in Europe.
That’s one issue, though. It’s the whole point that there is simply too much football going on. Imagine that: too much football? It’s almost ludicrous. We ache for the return of the football season for much of the summer, then when it returns we’re faced with problems of fixture congestion.
But like in this particular case of Mourinho’s attack on the fixture allocation – or broadcast allocation – you have to pick out a smaller problem from the big picture.
Why is Arsenal vs. Chelsea on television? Well anyone can answer that. The thing is broadcasters think they’re getting a blockbuster fixture akin to what we’d see on a weekend during league competition. It’s not going to happen. And why should it? Mourinho, and any other manager, is out to get the best out of his team so he fulfils his obligations as manager and achieves the targets set out for him. It’s not his problem to appease the masses – or the minority, because it is a minority running these things. If a Hollywood clash was desired, simply push the game back by a further 24 hours. Why should clubs be forced to consider the desires of broadcasters when they get little in return?
Andre Villas-Boas also had his say on this, though Tottenham aren’t set to feature on television when they play Aston Villa, so the issue comes more in line with the wider problem. Tottenham travel to Aston Villa on Tuesday night, allowing once again for less than 48 hours preparation.
It was quite pleasing to see Villas-Boas say, “It (the League Cup) is not our number one priority.” And why should it be? He probably sees little sense in it other than a disruption ahead of more pressing matters. He suggested a weakened squad would be put out, and rightly so. Every club prioritises certain competitions over others. What place do the media or even fans have to berate the choice to field a weakened team in competitions of limited importance?
The problem isn’t just limited to when games are played, but that they’re played in the first place. Next week is the Champions League and Europa League fixtures. Some teams are properly prepared for fixture pile ups such as this, but there’s an irony to the whole thing. It doesn’t matter if it’s football, retail, or office work, if there’s a high concentration of work that needs to be done and not enough man power, you recruit. Yet football wants a limit on spending and a limit on the number of players you can have in a squad, coupled with the presentation of high-quality or star-studded football every week. It’s just not possible.
So while television scheduling is a problem, at least for those who wish to sympathise, the real source lies in the volume of matches throughout a season.
Does the television schedule need to be addressed in England?
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