Why does the Premier League begin so early?
Across the Premier League's famed top six, managers frustration have been evident this preseason. Quite clearly, it has been not an easy start to the season for them. Due to the World Cup, key players were not present with their clubs for the start of preseason.
Players who featured in the last four of the competition only returned from their designated holiday this Monday, five days before the first match of 2018-19 Premier League.
What is the real story?
The 2017-18 Premier League begins this Friday, only 25 days after the World Cup final in Moscow. For sure, many clubs are set to without their key player's on the opening weekend as they are unlikely to be in full fitness. This also led to last week's Community Shield been played with key players from each side missing like Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard.
Other European leagues
A look across Europe makes the Premier League's decision look even more irrational. Only Ligue 1 begins on the same night as the English league, with Serie A and La Liga getting underway on 18th August.
In Germany, the Bundesliga kicks off another week later, on the 24th of August. The European Super Cup final which took place on 8th August last year is scheduled for 15th August this time.
Looking at how their European rivals can afford to start their domestic season a bit later, one wonders why the Football Association is in such a hurry to start in England.
Past years in the Premier League
Post the 2014 World Cup, The Premier League season began on 16th August, while in 2010, 14th August was the circled date. In 2012 and 2016, post the European Championships, the opening week of the season was on similar dates.
Evidently, it is the third week of the month that has been bookmarked for the season to get underway. In recent years, only 2015 and 2017, which was neither a World Cup or Euro year that the Premier League began this early.
Why does it matter?
On the surface, one is bound to say, how does missing a few pre-season games matter? Players are back in time for the league season to start and it should not be a big worry for clubs. While the argument holds the weight, one cannot undermine the importance of training sessions in pre-season camps.
The matches itself are no more than glorified training sessions but the important part is regaining fitness to be in optimal conditions for the start of the league. Never over the course of a season does a side gets as much time on the training pitch to work on tactical work, as in preseason.
It can define a team's style of play, a manger's trust in a player and a player's future at the club. Hence Jose Mourinho's regular post-match comments in the U.S.A, saying "I did not learn anything" are not way off the mark.
For any team, such a haphazard pre-season is a massive concern, for club's like Chelsea and Arsenal, who are working under new coaches, it is a source of even bigger problems.
Evidently, the manager and his player would not be ideally prepared for the first game week of the season. One may say, it is a matter of just one or two weeks but the fact is there are points at stake.
Football fans do not need a reminder of how important even a point can turn out to be, come the end of the season. Also, momentum is built and lost at the start of the season and the possible psychological impact cannot be ignored.
Could the situation have been avoided?
Many times, the natural justification for the start dates of a tournament is the need to end it by a particular time. In this case, the reasoning simply doesn’t hold true, at least on the outset. The final Premier League Gameweek is scheduled for 12th May 2018, and the FA Cup final set for a week later on 18th. With the Champions League final in Madrid to be played on 2nd June, one wonders why the English season ends two weeks earlier.
Since 2014, the gap between the FA Cup final and UEFA Champions League final has always been one week, why was there need an increase it this time around? Could the FA Cup final not have been pushed back by a week to ensure the league can commence a week later?
Why is the season ending so early is another question in itself. If a situation like Liverpool faced last season repeats, where a team is not in the cup final but makes it to the Champions final occurs, the team is set to go three weeks without playing a competitive game of football. Is that the ideal preparation for the biggest match of the season?
The FA's scheduling around European games has been criticised for a long while. Every club has made it evident that they are not given the right environment to succeed in Europe. Its high time that FA looks at the issue. They need to understand their role in helping teams. At the moment, the governing body is doing the polar opposite.
A bit of common sense in scheduling could have saved Premier League clubs a lot of headaches and made the manager’s job a lot easier. For now, don’t be surprised if one sees a few upsets in the opening weeks of the new campaign.