Chelsea Football Club manager Frank Lampard discussed the issues regarding player welfare ahead of his sides early kick-off against Newcastle United Football Club on Saturday.
The English top flight side, who currently sit fifth in the table after eight games, face a 12:30pm kick off on Saturday afternoon, despite having 20 players called up to international duty, which followed an already packed-out schedule, caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Premier League teams, prior to the 2020/21 season, were unusually dealt with having to prepare without a normal pre-season, which not only allows for teams to organise themselves ahead of the campaign but for players to regain their match fitness and reduce the likelihood of injuries.
On top of an unfamiliar start, Chelsea have been competing in the UEFA Champions League, alongside the Premier League, adding only more games to an already busy fixture list and clocking up additional air miles too.
In any ordinary season, it would be without question the normality of players featuring for their countries in international fixtures, whether that be in friendly matches or the new Nations League format. However, this isn’t any ordinary season and Lampard has questioned whether the welfare of players has been considered when deciding on the 12:30pm broadcasting slot.
“The majority of our squad have been travelling. Some are travelling just now (Thursday November 19), they will travel again up to Newcastle, they will travel back from Newcastle, they will fly to Rennes on Monday, they will fly back from Rennes,” started the Chelsea manager.
“When you look at the scheduling, the broadcasters have never had so many slots of games that they have now. That 12:30pm slot…how much does it need to be there. If you’re looking over the course of a season, the number of times players return from international duty, it’s absolutely not the optimum way to have player playing in a Premier League game, that is an incredible brand all around the world.
So far this season, one of the biggest talking points has been the vast number of injuries suffered by players, including the number of soft tissue injuries, often related with overworking of a muscle without substantial rest time.
Lampard added: “I’m concerned. The injuries are going up across the Premier League. Muscle injuries are going up and the numbers are there if the Premier League want to look at them closely.
“It’s clear there is a correlation of (having) game, after game, after game, no pre-season, the schedule is tighter and throughout this season there will be these really busy patches. If we want to handle this as best as we can and look after the players and get the product as best as we can, change the time of 12:30pm.”
Lampard was also asked to draw on the recent rule change in the English Football League (EFL), that will now allow teams to make up to five substitutes in a game, a rule that was implemented as part of Project Restart but voted down before the commencement of the 2020/21 season. Before the international break, managers Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola called for the change to be made in the Premier League.
Lampard said: “I think it’s something we have to address again with all clubs. I know we had a vote earlier in the season, but nothing has changed in terms of our professional environment since the restart. In fact, some things have tightened up. The scheduling has become even more hectic.
“The reason maybe managers aren’t using their three substitutions in a game is because if you have ten players you’re fearful might suffer from tiredness in the latter stages of game, to make that third substitution in 70 minutes is entering a danger zone that you might have an injury after that.
“My main concern is the player welfare of the players who are under incredible stress, particularly players and clubs that are playing in Europe. It’s every three or four days, week after week and we’re not even at Christmas yet, which looks the same.
“Everywhere else in Europe and the rest of the world it seems has five substitutions and we don’t. We have to revisit that in my opinion.”
Author: Jake Wilkin