With clarity now on when and where clubs will be playing over the festive period and Christmas Eve issues dealt with, who has the toughest schedule…and the perceived advantage over a busier than ever Christmas period.
With next summers Russian World Cup seeing the campaign of 2017/18 more congested than ever with a heavy international calendar as well, the opening 87 days of the season saw the first eleven match days take place – along with European commitments for those involved.
The next eleven fixtures are packed into only 47 days – what a stroke of genius!
Every top flight club has four festive fixtures in that time which is one more than last season, where every side but Everton had a week off before facing their Boxing Day clashes.
Leicester City have the toughest schedule as they face their four games in the space of 213 hours – December 23 to January 1 and by comparison Arsenal have it easy, facing their four games in 290 hours given their New Year’s Day clash with Chelsea has been put back to January 3.
Chelsea are the next to benefit with a span of 273 hours with Manchester City following on 246.75 hours. The .75 is important! Watford also gain that benefit.
Plenty will wonder whether or not clubs are being favoured as it’s a regular topic of conversation when folks look at fixture congestion at this time of year, and whilst eye brows will naturally rise with Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City at the top of the lazy tree, being joined by Watford and then Crystal Palace, West Ham, Swansea, West Brom and Southampton in the next pack with a range of 246.5 hours does balance the conspiracy up.
Tottenham are the next to fair best with 244 hours, and Liverpool come in on 237 hours. Everton are the next to cram with 222.75 hours and Newcastle, Stoke and Huddersfield have to be content with 217.75 hours.
Manchester United don’t even get those extra few hours and no doubt Jose Mourinho will let everyone know about it as well as they come in with 215.5 hours.
Whether it makes a difference, Brighton, Bournemouth and Burnley have 215.25 each and that brings us back to Leicester.
A conspiracy or just simply a lack of forethought from the ever greedy television companies as they bounce games around to suit them blissfully unaware of the consequences?
Fans will have their own opinions but in pulling the details together the BBC actually looked at the Opta Stats from previous festive crushes and if anything they show across the board players actually increase their intensity across 90 minutes when the games come thick and fast, so there is an argument that physical output doesn’t suffer from added fatigue.
The statistics show that any perceived fatigue also doesn’t see the number of goals in game drop off either.
That line of thought isn’t replicated amongst fans though, and the topic is a regular go to for managers after defeats.
In terms of the stats, looking back to the festive period in 2016/17, the December 23 to January 31 portion of the season showed an average of 523.6 sprints, compared to an average of 511.7 for the rest of the season. For the last three seasons the December to January run has seen an identical number of average goals scored as well (2.7) per match, and even from a shots taken perspective it was found that the average over winter was 25.5 compared to 25.8.
With talk of a winter break never far from the headlines, at least looking at the stats implies that one isn’t needed, but there is an argument that maybe players suffer down the line even if there’s not a drop off over winter itself.