Premier League clubs – Change for success

After England’s disappointly embarrassing exit to Iceland at Euro 2016,there was much debate as to what should happen next. Whilst appointing Sam Allardyce definitely wasn’t one of them, many looked towards the Premier League itself and what could be done club wise in order to boost England’s chances.

One of the common lines is that Premier League teams more games (cue the well they get paid enough comments). Domestically a Premier League club will play 38 games, six games in the FA Cup minimum not including replays, which could add three extra games. Something to note though is this seasons FA Cup quarter finals will be decided on the day instead of the usual replay. This apparently a mixture of keeping the interest and helping to reduce the fixture list for clubs, especially when games have often been squeezed into some busy schedules. Of course there is then the league cup. For teams not in Europe there is one less game, that could add a possible seven games. Recently though some clubs have rested first team players in the earlier ties. On the subject of clubs in Europe depending on where you qualify, take Manchester City for example, that could add another fifteen ties. An English club could end up playing over sixty games.

Naturally if you expect a team and/or player to feature in over sixty games a season and before a major tournament, something is going to have to give. This of course is not the whole excuse for England’s poor performance, but fitness and the likelihood of burnout is likely to have a key affect.

So how do we deal with the issue. There are a couple that are obvious ones that will reduce the amount of games a team/player will compete in. Reduce the Premier League to eighteen clubs. Whilst the league would only lose two games per team, it would go a way to reduce the fixture pile up for the latter part of the season. This would especially be the case when the FA Cup third round springs into place and the likelihood of replays enter the fray and the frantic rearranging of fixtures.

Reducing the Premier League fixtures would enable the Premier League clubs and players to have the Christmas period off. Just because they earn mega millions, doesnt mean that they cant have the festive period off, they should be entitled just as much as everyone else. This could appeal to the non football lovers who wouldnt have to put up with football through the Christmas period. It might though not appeal greatly to the fans who like the traditional festive football programme. For me the idea of no footy over the Christmas period would be a hard one especially with no Boxing Day Match of The Day to look forward to. It will be one that no doubt splits opinion. The season wouldn’t be shortened either as two of the midweek rounds of Premier League fixtures would be moved to the weekend. This again would also reduce the fixture list pile up as the season heads towards the final weeks.

It isnt just the league of course. There are the Cup competitions, the FA and League Cup. The FA Cup doesnt see the top flight clubs enter until round three, this takes off one lot of pressure to a point. Some might say that the FA should abolish the idea of replays full stop. Seeing that the competition has seen the reduction to one replay, what difference would it make if all games were to be completed on the day. It might help the fixtures even further. For me though that would take away a lot from the FA Cup. There is nothing more exciting than seeing an FA Cup replay and a Cup upset and not only that, the smaller clubs would lose out on possible extra revenue. As mentioned earlier, the 2016-17 FA Cup would see no replays in the Quarter Finals.

Then of course there is the League Cup which has seen it drop way down the list of the leading Premier League clubs priority list. Many would rather not enter it if they didnt have to and to an extent would rather field mixtures of reserves and youth. Sometimes though that can still see the club progress far in the competition if you have a good combination of youth talent and reserves.

There are many ways that the Premier League could deal with this, first off would be for Premier League clubs to withdraw from the competition, that though may not be a straight forward way. A vote would possibly be split with the majority of clubs voting to remain in the competition as another opportunity to win a piece of silverware. Of course though there could be a compromise of teams that dont want to take part being able to withdraw. If though the Premier League clubs voted to leave, this would leave twenty club spaces to fill. The League could either restructure the competition or even elect to invite twenty National League clubs into the competition. There could also be the option of every season Premier League clubs invited to take part or not.

If Premier League clubs were to withdraw, what would happen to the Europa League spot that the League Cup has? Would UEFA withdraw that spot or as more recently with many of the League Cup winners coming from the top eight, would it just remain with the Premier League. It will be certainly interesting to see.

Whether these plans would work is something that would be interesting to see, but introducing the National League teams to the competition couldn’t do any real harm to its future.

Mignolet at the last chance saloon?

Last season was a season that the Belgian international Simon Mignolet would like to forget, the error prone keeper cost Liverpool 15 points that would have seen them in the top four and even second spot. The problem for Liverpool was that there was no real competition for Mignolet although when Ward came back from loan, he showed that he could do well to put pressure on the Belgian. The indifferent form didnt stop manager Jurgen Klopp from offering him a new five year deal. This brought some mixed reaction from the fans, mostly concerned reaction as it seemed strange to reward a keeper who more than likely cost them a top four finish and a place in the Champions League.

The decision to offer the Belgian a new deal would either be one questionable decision by Klopp, or some long term thinking in seeing im have value in a possible future transfer. It could very well be the latter as German youngster Lorius Karius was signed towards the end of May. He gave a relatively decent performance during pre season as Mignolet was given extra time off from playing in Euro 2016. Karius had been convinced by Klopp not to go to the Olympics, which signalled that the former Mainz keeper would start the season between the sticks. Whilst the Reds only faced the likes of Fleetwood Town, Wigan and Huddersfield, he had kept clean sheets until the Chelsea game. The game against the Blues would be his last for a while as he would break his hand.

Mignolet will be hoping his appearance in the opening games of the season will be error free and preferably clean sheets.  Visits to Arsenal, Burnley, Tottenham and Chelsea in amongst an opening run of fixtures that also sees a home time against defending champions Leicester. The pressure and focus is on Mignolet and any unforced errors will certain be tallied up by Reds fans up and down the country. With no European football for the club, there are plenty advantages for Liverpool and Mignolet will hope to be helping to spearhead that venture.

If come Christmas and the New Year we see Mignolet’s errors are mounting once more then the bell surely has to toll. Should the second half of the season be a nightmare of proportions for the keeper I can only imagine that Klopp will be opting to cash in on the Belgian international.