How well Chelsea and Arsenal do in this season’s Europa League could come down to the age-old adversary of fixture scheduling.
Last week, the Blues were left with a game on Monday before flying to the Czech Republic for a clash with Slavia Prague on a Thursday.
It’s hardly ideal considering the distance and lack of preparation they’d have been faced with. But the same has happened this week for Arsenal as they played Watford on Monday before getting ready to take on Napoli just three days later.
It’s been a much-debated topic for a considerable period of time but the discussion was renewed last weekend.
Don’t forget Chelsea played on Monday for absolutely no reason when we could have played on Sunday and then played on Thursday in Europe and now Sunday again. Disgraceful.
— Mod (@CFCMod_) April 13, 2019
Same with arsenal this week ahead of Napoli away. Some joke
— Stephen Power (@StephenPower10) April 13, 2019
Chelsea played Monday, Thursday and now Sunday. ?♂️
— ??? (@CFCDon) April 13, 2019
Same about Arsenal having to play Mon night at Watford
— sammy rothwell (@sammy1648) April 13, 2019
There may be six English clubs still in European involvement but how far they go could be hindered by the Premier League, especially considering there is still so much to play for.
TV rights obviously play a huge part but it’s baffling that they have such a stronghold over the league. Plainly, something has to change. Not least for the fans, but if English teams are to go as far as possible in the latter stages of European competition then the Premier League needs to protect its own.
The fact that both Chelsea and Arsenal played on a Monday night when they also have to play on a Thursday makes no sense.
This isn’t a new issue, it’s been a problem for a while. Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola made his feelings all too clear about scheduling in the past, lamenting hectic fixture lists and claiming “we’re going to kill the players.” The dreaded topic of a winter break only seems to enhance similar sentiments.
Is it any surprise, therefore, that Spanish teams have done so well in both the Europa League and the Champions League when they have a period off? Probably not.
Looking at how long each remaining team in the Europa League has to prepare for their quarter-finals, it’s clear that both English teams are at a huge disadvantage.
Slavia Prague have had two whole extra days to prepare for their quarter-finals over the last fortnight. Napoli, meanwhile, will have had one day over Arsenal. Considering their away form, this doesn’t bode well for the Gunners at all.
Every club still left beside them, barring Frankfurt and Valencia too, played on a Saturday ahead of their first leg. They all then played on Sunday before their second legs. Premier League take note.
This competition could represent Arsenal and Chelsea’s best chance of securing Champions League football next term, especially with the top four so hotly contested this season. It seems bewildering, therefore, that the Premier League’s thoughts are with TV schedules, rather than its own teams.
Small details often decide who claims trophies and this is yet another fine margin that could have a large say on who reigns victorious in Baku next month.