As Chelsea prepare for our longest domestic trip of the season, Frank Lampard has been speaking about the increasingly busy schedule and how he thinks the demands on players can be eased...
If preparation is paramount, how do you get ready for a full-blooded Premier League contest when half your players haven’t returned from international duty 48 hours before kick-off? That is the conundrum Lampard has been grappling with at Cobham this week as he waits for his players to trickle back from all corners of the globe.
For some, like Thiago Silva following an 11,000km journey back from Montevideo, it will be too much. For others, they will have no choice but to knuckle down and carry on playing, regardless of the consequences.
Chelsea’s trip to Newcastle for the Saturday lunchtime kick-off is the first of 13 matches for the Blues in 43 days. Simple maths tells you that is a relentless fixture schedule with a game roughly every three days taking us into 2021. For Lampard, player welfare is at risk.
‘We’ve been training with four players generally in these last two weeks,’ he explained. ‘The majority of our squad have been travelling, they will travel again to fly to Newcastle tomorrow and then back, they’ll fly to Rennes on Monday and then back.
‘I’m concerned because you can see the muscle injuries are going up across the Premier League. The numbers are there if people want to go and look at them closely so it’s clear. There’s a correlation between game after game after game, zero pre-season, the schedule being tighter – it’s just common sense.’
Lampard believes changes can be made to help the players and protect the Premier League brand, including losing the early kick-off on a Saturday following the international break. He has also called once again for the rule permitting five substitutes per game to be reintroduced.
‘The broadcasters have never had as many slots or games as they have now,’ he continued. ‘With that 12.30pm slot on a Saturday, you have to ask how much does it need to be there? If you’re looking over the course of a season at four or five international breaks, can we not change the time?
‘With the amount of things we’ve changed due to Covid-19, Project Restart and now this season because of the incredible times, we have to continue looking for the best way to change it and it’s not a difficult conversation to have. The answer is to stop talking and act upon it.
‘It’s absolutely not the optimum way to prepare for a game in the Premier League, which is an incredible brand around the world. It’s very difficult for us to prepare for this game anywhere near our best. I want us to play to our best but these are very difficult circumstances.’