There can’t be too many topics that you’ll find Jurgen Klopp, Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho all in agreement on, but the rigorous fixture pile-up that has become commonplace in English football has yielded criticism from all three.
Fixture congestion has become the go-to excuse for despairing managers when their team under-performs and the injury list mounts.
Although they strolled to a comfortable 3-0 win over Derby County on Thursday night, Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer became the latest boss to take a swipe at the heavy fixture list, with United given a short turnaround before their huge clash with Manchester City this weekend.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer moaned about the fixture pile up ahead of the Manchester Derby
Sportsmail looks at which Premier League club has been hit hardest by the fixture pile up
‘I cannot believe why there’s a derby on Sunday and we’ve got to play Thursday night. What’s the point in that? That doesn’t level the playing field,’ he said.
The grumblings of managers regarding the football calendar are often swept aside by fans and pundits, who pay the bemoaning no regard.
But do Premier League bosses have a point? Sportsmail takes a look at the clubs who have played the most games this season, as well as the average number of rest days each side has had since the turn of the year.
1. Liverpool: 46 games / 3.64 days rest between games
The Premier League’s unstoppable force have looked unflappable on all fronts as Klopp’s men seemingly put to rest dubious theories regarding fixture schedules and fatigue, until the past week of course.
Klopp can point to a whole host of reasons for his side’s slip up of late, with captain Jordan Henderson sidelined as well as the introduction of the mistake-prone Dejan Lovren.
But serious thought has to go to the sheer volume of games Liverpool have played this season. They top the league with the number of matches played in 2019-20 with 46, having competed in the Club World Cup in Qatar at the end of 2019.
Liverpool have played the most games of all Premier League clubs so far this season
Jurgen Klopp has expressed his frustrations with the sheer volume of games his side must play
Since the turn of the year, the Mo Salah and Co have been afforded an average of 3.64 days rest between games, the fourth-fewest out of the top six on this list.
The German has been openly critical of the number of games demanded of his side, which reached boiling point when he fielded a youth side to face Shrewsbury in the FA Cup.
Jurgen Klopp’s fixture moan: ‘Obviously we can say what we want but no-one is listening. The body needs a specific amount of time to go again. That is science. But we ignore that completely.’
Klopp’s frustration boiled over when he played a youth side in the FA Cup tie with Shrewsbury
= Wolverhampton Wanderers: 46 games / 4.27 days rest between games
When Wolverhampton Wanderers qualified for Europa League football on their return to the Premier League last season, many expected the west Midlands club to suffer the same fate as Burnley.
Starting a competitive season in July is seen as a perilous task and with the small number of players Nuno Espirito Santo likes to work with, it would have been unsurprising to see Wolves struggle to keep up with the heavy workload.
But Nuno’s men have defied the odds and have found themselves in an appealing Round of 16 Europa League tie with Olympiacos as well as being well in the race for Champions League football next season.
Wolves have made a mockery of the myth that the Europa League does more harm than good
Despite having a small squad, Nuno Espirito Santo has managed their 46 games well so far
They join Liverpool at the summit of the ‘most games played’ table, although they have had the most amount of rest between games of the top six sides since the turn of the year.
Although it should be remembered that they were handed the impossible challenge of 43 hours rest between playing Manchester City and Liverpool over Christmas.
The Portuguese has displayed his frustrations with the lack of consideration for his side’s physical recovery, particularly during that busy period.
Nuno Espirito Santo’s fixture moan: ‘It’s absurd. It’s there. It’s not only Wolves, it’s for all the teams. All the managers, all the players are concerned. We cannot do anything, we have to survive.’
Wolves have had the most days rest of the top six clubs on this list since the turn of the year
3. Manchester United: 45 games / 3.06 days rest between games
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s willingness to pursue all silverware available has lead to a hectic fixture schedule for Manchester United.
Manchester United come in third in the list of most games played by a Premier League club
Thursday night saw the Red Devils advance to the quarter finals of the FA Cup, having made the semi finals of the Carabao Cup late last year and still in the Europa League knockout stages.
Their pursuit of that trio of trophies, plus their Premier League commitments, are reflected in the number of games United have played this season – 45 in all competitions.
The number of rest days between games since the turn of the year is particularly noteworthy, with United having the fewest of the top six clubs at just 3.06.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s fixture moan: ‘It’s that help we get from the FA again, that extra 24 hours that they’ve had. It was the same when we beat them last time to be fair. We played Wednesday and they played Tuesday. Those 24 hours are important so we’ve got to be good at recovering now.’
United have an average of 3.06 days rest between games since the turn of the year
4. Manchester City: 44 games / 3.57 days rest between games
Since Guardiola’s arrival at Manchester City in 2016, the Spaniard has not been reluctant to express his view on the volume of fixtures played by teams in English football.
City have found themselves top of the total matches played list during Guardiola’s tenure owing to the former Barcelona boss winning almost every domestic trophy available.
Last Sunday’s win over Aston Villa in the Carabao Cup final made it eight domestic trophies from a possible nine for the Citizens.
Premier League champions Manchester City have played 44 games in all competitions
And they sit fourth in the table of total matches played with 44, just two behind Premier League leaders Liverpool.
They also have an average of 3.57 days rest between games since the New Year.
Guardiola revealed he wrote to the Premier League to express his frustrations over the fixture pile-up for his side, although his criticism bore no reprieve for the club.
Pep Guardiola’s fixture moan: ‘I wrote a letter to the Premier League to say thank you and we are going to the fridge after Wolves to get ready for Sheffield United.’
City boss Pep Guardiola has been vocal in his opposition of the huge fixture pile up in England
5. Tottenham Hotspur: 41 games / 3.57 days rest between games
Things haven’t really gone Mourinho’s way since the Portuguese was appointed Spurs boss following the dismissal of Mauricio Pochettino.
After a strong start, Tottenham have been besieged by injuries with Harry Kane and Son Heung-min out for what is likely to be the rest of the season.
Mourinho’s frustrations came to a boil a few weeks ago following the RB Leipzig defeat in the Champions League, with the Spurs boss complaining of the lack of time given to his players to recover.
Spurs are in the midst of a poor run of form and the fixture list offers them no reprieve
Jose Mourinho’s men have been besieged by injuries as well as limited recovery time for games
He may well have a point.
Spurs have been given the same number of days rest as City (3.57) since the turn of the year, with only United having less time to recover.
They have also played the fifth-most games this season with 41.
Jose Mourinho’s fixture moan: ‘It’s like going to a fight with a gun without bullets. We could see Lucas absolutely dead, Bergwijn absolutely dead, Lo Celso dead. Chelsea (are) drinking sparkling water with lemon watching the game on TV and Saturday morning we are there again.’
Mourinho compared his squad’s freshness to ‘going to a fight with a gun without bullets’
= Chelsea: 41 games / 4.25 days rest between games
The majority of this Chelsea squad are all too aware of the toll a busy fixture list can take on the body, having lasted the duration of the Europa League last season to win the competition in Baku.
Maurizio Sarri’s final hurrah has meant that the west London club are competing in the Champions League this season, which involves the more favourable spacing of games compared to the inferior competition.
Chelsea have enjoyed a relatively comfortable number of rest days between games of 4.25
Blues boss Frank Lampard hasn’t offered criticism of the fixture list since taking over as boss
Frank Lampard’s side are level with Spurs for fixtures played this season with 41 and since the turn of the year have been afforded 4.25 days rest between games on average, a relative luxury compared to their rivals.
Frank Lampard’s fixture moan: The Chelsea boss has been quiet regarding the fixture list.