Another Premier League weekend has come and gone, and it’s safe to say it was an eventful one.
Jai Singh takes a look at the things we learned this weekend.
TV Scheduling is To Blame
The 1-1 draw between Liverpool and Brighton at The Amex had plenty of talking points: penalties, VAR (again), and late drama. A lot of that, however, was overshadowed by the post-match interview between Jurgen Klopp and Des Kelly. Klopp was clearly enraged as Kelly defended the broadcasters, and pointed the blame towards the Premier League for their decision to schedule a 12:30 kick-0ff after Liverpool’s midweek defeat at the hands of Atalanta.
This comes only a few weeks after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer raised the same points, also in an interview with Des Kelly. Who the blame lies with for this hectic, and arguably poorly managed schedule, is irrelevant. There needs to be a change. Liverpool lost James Milner to a hamstring injury, which adds to their ever-growing list of injured players. It is not just the big teams that are suffering. Brighton lost Neal Maupay, after his missed spot-kick. to what also seemed like a muscular injury, which can only be attributed to the number of games Premier League players have played since the June restart. Add to that little or no real pre-season and meaningless international friendlies and players are starting to drop like flies. Before the start of game week 9, muscular injuries were up 16% in comparison to the same point in the 2019/20 season. The question is, what can be done?
5 subs the solution?
As well as targeting the broadcaster, Klopp called out Chris Wilder, who has been in direct competition with him over the use of 5 substitutes. The sly dig that Wilder has ‘3 subs and only 1 point’ throws Wilders argument out the window that the big teams would gain an advantage over the small teams. Yes, the big clubs have bigger squads. But unlike the smaller clubs, they have played 3 games every 7/8 days since the end of October, compared to the once a week for those not in Europe. To add to that, most players of the big clubs are regular starters for their international sides, so would have had no rest during the international break. Five subs, which were introduced last season to maintain the intensity of football, worked well. We were blessed with some entertaining, high-intensity football. If the Premier League wishes to maintain that same intensity during a fixture-congested season, they should follow the example set by the EFL and allow clubs to use 5 subs once again.
Head Injuries a Real Concern
There was a lot of the talk during the week regarding how clubs have a duty to reduce the amount of heading during training. Research has suggested there is a direct link between heading the ball and suffering from ailments like dementia later in life. Every precaution needs to be taken to ensure the welfare of players. However, Sunday night’s fixture between Arsenal and Wolves at the Emirates was a classic example of that not happening. Five minutes into the game, David Luiz and Raul Jimenez went up for a challenge following a corner. Luiz was slightly lead and clattered into the Wolves striker. The concern from both sets of players was immediate as the sound of the impact of the two players colliding still sends a shiver down the spine.
Whilst Jimenez was stretched off with a reported fractured skull, Luiz was criminally allowed to continue until half-time. Whilst players arguably understand their bodies better than anyone else, they are athletes who will want to play on regardless. A senior member of the medical staff at Arsenal should have taken charge and pulled Luiz off the pitch immediately. The fact that it did not happen highlights the lack of concern a lot of clubs have over player welfare, and more importantly the lack of education they have. There needs to be more understanding of the long-lasting impact of head injuries for management and players so football can move forward and protect its stars.
Title race is Wide Open
The blockbuster fixture of the weekend was undoubtedly at Stamford Bridge, where 3rd placed Chelsea hosted league-leaders Tottenham. The game seemingly had all the ingredients of a thriller. Mourinho v Lampard. Two in-form, goal-scoring sides fighting at the top of the table together for the first time in a long time. Whilst the game failed to live up to the hype, as these things usually do, it did tell us that the title race this season is not a two-horse race. For two out of the last three seasons, we knew where the title was going by January. In the other, it was a two-horse race.
This season, however, there are arguably five genuine contenders (and a couple who will fancy themselves as outsiders). Liverpool, even with all their injuries, are joint top. Spurs under Mourinho look solid at the back and electric up top. Chelsea have had to gel a few signings together, but Lampard seemingly has his best XI figured out. Manchester City got their biggest win of the season, and will always be a threat. Then you have Leicester, who will be hoping to repeat their heroics of the famous 2015/16 season. Clubs like United and even Wolves will be thinking that maybe they could sneak into a race if everything goes their way. Expect plenty more drama, twists, turns, and excitement in what looks to be the most unpredictable Premier League season to date.
Written by Jai Singh (@Jai_singh1997)