Midweek Games Needed To Keep League Alive
Can we have more midweek Premier League games please?!
There is no coincidence that in the two games that Man United have faced Newcastle and Arsenal have faced Liverpool this season, we have gone from two 0-0 draws to two 3-3 draws, and I can tell you the specific reasons why.
Footballers are creatures of habit mostly, they train anywhere from 10am until 12pm, go home and hoverboard around or play each other on their playstations, and like the rest of us they are more or less alert until bedtime.
So take Sunday games for example. I have commentated for talkSPORT for 8 years now and we have 5:30pm Saturday commentaries and anything before 2:05pm.
The drop off in quality between the 2 days sometimes is quite astounding, despite TV companies and the Premier League telling you that most people watch domestically – Sunday, that lazy day in front of the telly, and also prime time in Asia. In all honesty, as long as the viewing figures and big deals keep rolling in, they won’t honestly care about the actual product, namely what we’ve had this midweek, compared to many poor Sunday offerings.
So why is this?
Well, going back to players for a moment, on a Sunday morning game their whole weekly routine is out of sync. You may be the nervous type who gets so amped up before games that you can’t sleep, so a 7/8am reveille after a crap night rolling around, forcing beans on toast down you, on a coach to prepare to entertain the world; well often it ain’t happening.
Compare that to the players who’ve played this midweek. A good night sleep or not means that after a light 5 a side or stretch on the morning of a midweek game, proper lunch, an afternoon nap for those who need that extra rest give as much time and space to be able to focus on the game ahead. This is without the exciting bit though…
On a Sunday morning kick off you can usually get from hotel to game in 30 minutes, few fans milling around, and the ones that are, are yawning as much as the players as they are greeted from the coach at the stadium. Compare this to a 6:30pm hotel departure, streets thronging with fans on their way to the game, traffic, life and excitement all the way with a Police escort, seeing the floodlit stadium in the distance.
Fans are up for it, players are up for it and it just feels like a much more exciting event ahead.
Want proof other than the above games? Liverpool v Newcastle, 4-3. I remember getting on the team bus in Liverpool City centre (it was one of the first midweek televised games I think) and on the short journey to Anfield you passed pubs full of fans waving and cheering, away supporters flipping the bird and thousands milling around the Shankly Gates on arrival. It felt amazing, exciting and we were ready to do our bit, as were both sets of fans on the night.
So Scudamore, who seems determined, brick by brick to make the Premier League more global, less English (don’t start me on the removal of the Lion from the logo), pandering to fans abroad rather than bottle the essence that sells this league globally in the first place.
A little homework for you, ask your favourite player on Twitter whether they prefer playing on a Wednesday night or Sunday morning. I’d be astounded if 90% didn’t agree with me, because the whole midweek set up is geared for excitement rather than players and fans hardly awake.
Liverpool v Arsenal
Cracking game but yet again when it comes to both teams, both clubs analysing the performance and result, I’m sure both Klopp and Wenger will be more concerned than happy to be honest.
To win this season’s title you can probably get away with having an average defensive unit as, if we are being honest, there isn’t a good one in the whole league, which is good because it may be this reason and this reason mostly why Arsenal could and perhaps should win it.
Great going forward, lots of creative and goalscoring options, a central striker stepping firmly up to the plate in Giroud; the Gunners just have more consistency than City when going head-to-head looking for qualities, and the Gunners edge the defensive part of the team too with Kompany missing, tepid recent performances from Man City and Koscielny/Mertesacker axis at least looking like a cohesive pair.
Wenger though, must know that this is his best chance of winning the league so for me, must find a way of keeping the attacking balance but not conceding three against anyone, let alone a Liverpool side that are running mostly on the fumes of the Klopp introduction.
Arsenal have cash in the bank, lots of it and a group of players that have matured mostly together.
If I were Arsene I’d blow the whole damn thing apart, break Twitter, the internet and the Emirates bank vault and pay a record fee for Paul Pogba.
Think I’m crazy? Arsenal have the dough, Champions League, a player who knows England, and most importantly is a similar age profile to many of these Gunners who’ve now had a few years together. Big clubs do big things, sometimes when least expected and imagine the odds makers, Manuel Pellegrini et al waking up to that signing.
If this 10 year Arsene project of youth, promise plus the odd marquee signing is going to have some tangible reward other than winning a one off league in a season where defences are woefully poor, and setting their stall out to take Arsenal forward domestically and Europe, then start with one of Europe’s brightest young players, Paul Pogba. A great natural fit, a great player and fit to stand in a central midfield that once was home to Patrick Vieira.
As for Liverpool, where to start? Mignolet isn’t a top 2 keeper, none of the back four are either, maybe with the exception of Clyne continuing to develop. Can is promise personified but needs a natural partner alongside him of which Lucas, Allen or even Henderson aren’t (I’d move Henderson into a dynamic 10 with remit to score more goals, take on more shots and be more of a presence in the box). Up front none of the strikers have shown really that they can lead the line well for more than a few games at a time.
So what will Klopp do?
I think he’s already got a list as long as your arm of potential summer recruits that fit into his style of play and more importantly respond with personality, something I’ve noticed is more important to him than his tactical take on any given game, and maybe start with the spine.
He turned Lewa into a world class striker, and none of the strikers at LFC as I’ve said has responded greatly to Klopp’s demands so maybe sell Benteke and Sturridge and finance a marquee striker.
Two, not one central defender for me of real quality, sell Bogdan, demote Migs as cover and with the young academy recruits waiting in the wings to get their chance, I’d imagine we’ll see a much more consistent Liverpool next season, with more of the opening 20 minutes against Man City, for longer, in more games.
Like I’ve said before, he’s going nowhere, so it will be his way or no way.