It’s been a long-awaited return… well, sort of. It has felt exponentially longer than the near, 2 months it has been. Why has this gap felt so much longer than the summer gap that happens every year? Shouldn’t we be used to this sort of game-less, time period?
I suppose it’s not really the same, is it? This time we have suffered through a period of drifting from day-to-day without a concrete end in sight, nor knowledge of when one would be established. Usually, during the summer, we are occupied with a steady stream of news revolving around the world of transfers, summer programs from players, looking ahead at the fixture lists, players returning to full training, and the start of a fresh run toward the Champions League. Without this, we are left with rumors, the slow trickle of football-related news, and lives preoccupied by these “unprecedented times”.
Surely, a phrase that we have all begun to roll our eyes at reading. Not because it’s not true. These times are unprecedented and worrisome, but simply because – if you are like me – you could pull out an inbox of emails that contain that exact phrase. It’s really uninspired writing. Maybe it’s because people expect everything at least acknowledge the current situation with all its abnormalities, but there are websites and thesauruses in existence to help change it up, but I digress. Next week the Bundesliga is set to return (May 16th).
The entire world will be watching. Not simply because, for football fans, there is nothing better to do, but because it will be the first of the major European leagues to return and will seemingly provide a path other leagues look to follow. Their successes will be everyone’s successes and their failures will be warnings for other leagues not to make the same mistakes upon their return. Germany’s COVID-19 situation is dramatically better than the likes of Britain, Italy, or Spain. It is drastically better than the United States’ situation and has encouraged them to give a ‘green light’ to procced with caution. Everyone knows, that if a single player or team gets ill it threatens to make all this planning for nothing.
On a brighter note, it provides the rest of the world the opportunity to pick a Bundesliga side to follow and support for a while. I have seen a lot of people Tweeting and writing about Dortmund, Leipzig, Bayern – all valid choices. I, myself, will be digging in with Fortuna Dusseldorf in an attempt to claw our way out the relegation position ‘we’ have found ourselves in. Feel free to support them with me. In full disclosure, I know absolutely nothing about them aside from their position in the table (16th) 4 points off the safety point. I wish nothing but luck to the Bundesliga and Germany. Their success, while disliked by some, could provide a first step back from this global pandemic.
Bringing us back to the Premier League, there have been multiple proposed changes to games that you have likely seen. Neutral venues, no fans, one suggestion of shorter halves – that I find ridiculous – and, in order to prioritize player safety from a fatigue standpoint once games return and the schedule becomes compact, the increase from three substitutions to five.
In order to prevent these substitutions from slowing down the pace of the game and providing teams with more opportunities to waste time, they added the stipulation that teams can still only use substitutions on three occasions. This means they will have to use multiple sub two players in on two occasions or some variation of that to bring on 5 players on 3 occasions.
It makes sense given the medical concerns surrounding the fatigue of players but leaves the door open for guessing at how this will change the game. An even better reason to make these guesses is the fact that some have suggested this change become permanent. While there is nothing linking this suggestion to a fact, it led me to consider some of the pros and cons to more substitutes in a game on an individual game basis.
Five substitutions will offer the ability to change out half of a team’s outfield players which provides manages the opportunity to seriously change of their tactics and dynamics late in a game. It is something that clever managers could use to their advantage and will alter more to a the game than a simple fresh set of legs. Teams are able to swap out their entire front 5 and provide an completely different look an feel for defenders to handle.
Consider a well-built team that is able to use a real workhorse midfield with a pacy front three to really stretch the opposition’s backline and then late subs to put on a large, bruiser of striker to manhandle and overpower a backline partnered with more creative, midfield – or vice versa. It is an element that would raise the importance of having a manger that is good at making in-game alterations and create quite the ‘chess-like’ feeling between what opposing managers do to counteract the opposition. In addition to this, it could create more frenetic ends to games. Usually the end of matches is a point where bodily fatigue is settling in and the mental side of the game takes over, but with more fresh legs and altered tactics – games could become more end-to-end. Exciting stuff.
The other aspect of this that has me worried is the potential for an enlarged number of draws. There is a considerable spike the amount of goals that are scored in the final 15 to 20 minutes of games when players are physically and mentally drained, but this could be a point that hardly exists with half a new team on the field. Teams that bunker into low blocks can plug in new defensive workhorses, coaches can replace those with yellow cards more freely to avoid risks of going down to 10-men, and teams that have spent the better part of the game chasing a more technical team, could find themselves more than capable of keeping up given more reinforcements.
How the game will be altered is anyone’s guess. It would likely be dependent on how the individual game is going and who is playing, but is something I would be very curious to see the stats and analysis on. While draws can be crucial points in a campaign, too many if them over the course of a season – league wide – could threaten how much people enjoy the matches.
Something to consider and think about. Hope you enjoy your Saturday, and everyone is safe and well! I’ll blog more news soon!