After nearly three months of waiting, football has been given a return date of June 17th – Arsenal on the first day – in order to deal with the four teams that have games in hand over the rest of the league and then starting Friday, June 19th and Saturday, June 20th games will be staggered throughout the day for viewing ease.
As with many aspects of planning for a restart during this pandemic, there are certainly downsides to it all. A schedule like this means players and clubs will have to battle against fatigue and fitness issues leading to injury. Accordint to The Ornstein & Chapman podcast, even with 5 substitutions at their disposal, injuries have risen roughly 250%. On an Arsenal-specific level, the Gunners will open their resumed campaign away against 2nd place Manchester City – hardly the ideal game to start with. Arteta and team will want to hit the ground running, but of their remaining 10 games, this certainly would not have been one fans would have been racing to play.
So, mark your calendars, assuming everything is “safe”, because Arsenal are back.
Yesterday’s Premier League Meeting
The phrase “it’s a marathon, not a sprint” has never been more true in terms of meetings than yesterday’s 8-hour meeting. As mentioned yesterday, clubs had pre-agreed to progress to ‘phase 2’ of training and in this meeting requested more time to prepare before competitive matches resumed.
The league wanted 2 weeks, clubs wanted 4, a date was settled at 3. How clubs use this time will be up to them, but some are arranging friendlies in an attempt to make this time truly feel like a preseason.
When it comes to scheduling games for viewing, it was clear the intent was to stagger the timeslots to allow for viewers to participate at home, given all games will be played behind closed doors.
Various sources report that the following schedule (BST):
Saturday 12:30; 15:00; 17:30; 20:00
Sunday 12:00; 14:00; 16:30; 19:00
Tuesday 18:00; 20:00
Wednesday 18:00; 20:00
Thursday 18:00; 20:00
Unfortunately, there is still no official list of fixtures within this schedule, but one is expected soon.
It was previously reported, that whether games resume or not, television broadcasters would be asking for a £330m rebate from the clubs that was agreed upon in principle but no hard details. The news was sort of put out there and then faded away. Yesterday, a lively debate was started on the call as clubs looked to, one, reduce the amount to £170m, two, timeline of the payment, and three, will big clubs be expected to pay back a larger chunk of the funds than smaller clubs.
From the sounds of it, clubs will not get their wish of reducing the amount, but there is still uncertainly surrounding points 2 and 3.
Standard Venues or Neutral Venues
By the sounds of it, teams will be able to play most matches at their home stadium – something that was revealed yesterday. However, it is still the understanding that “high risk” matches like derbies would take place at a neutral venue. It is still a preemptive attempt to prevent large gatherings from forming outside of stadiums, although I question whether that will prevent fans like Liverpool and Everton from traveling entirely when their teams square off for a game that could be the title decider.
As was expected, clubs toward the bottom of the table launched their attempt at taking relegation off the table. It was a motion was the Athletic reports was “blown out of the water” but other clubs. However, one of the more understandable complaints or worries came from clubs concerned at the outcome should the season start and stop again. If that happens, these first few fixtures did not go well, and the season is settled by an outcome like points per game, what happens if they are placed in a worse position due to having played less fixtures than teams around them.
Nothing settled on this issue in exact details but seems as though the idea of scrapping relegation entirely is not one the league or clubs are considering accepting.
It was a long intense day and one that will give Arsenal players and Arteta a lot to think about and look forward to. As a side that has suffered more than its fair share of injuries this year, it would be fair of them to be concerned over how they will hold up through the rest of the year. On the bright side, players like Tierney and possibly Cedric Soares will be back and available, while players like Torreira and Chambers will still be sidelined. However, for Lucas Torreira, this suspension has presented the possibility for him to heal, regain fitness, and will potentially be capable of returning this year.
Arteta will have his hands full with the challenges of keeping players healthy and motivated. With zero years of experience at the helm, this will be another challenge for the new manager and one that will showcase to the fans what he is capable of. I, myself, am excited to see what sort of options or variations he is capable of working on in following weeks as training session ramp up and he gets a real opportunity to work with the team. As mentioned by many, this is an opportunity that he did not have given he was hired in December during the thickest part of the schedule.
10 games left, an FA Cup still up for grabs, and a desperate desire from everyone to make the most of this to try and salvage the season. Here is to hoping that everyone can stay healthy during the run in, the quantity of positive test results from players are reduced, and we can see what this team and manager are made of.