Frank Lampard has accused television broadcasters and the Premier League of putting Chelsea at a disadvantage to their title rivals, saying they rejected a request to give his team an extra day’s rest after facing Arsenal on Boxing Day.
Furious that his side have to play twice in 48 hours over the festive period, Chelsea’s manager questioned why they have to host Aston Villa on Monday evening when Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham have three days between their next two games. Villa, who host Crystal Palace on Saturday afternoon, also asked for their trip to Stamford Bridge to be moved to Tuesday and Lampard made his anger clear by saying that a lack of common sense risks harming player welfare and the league’s integrity.
“The fact it’s two games in 48 hours is an important point because there are other teams who are challenging at the top of the league that play two games in three days,” Lampard said. “It’s counterproductive for the quality of the Premier League; it’s a risk for players if they are going to play both games at the top end of elite sport.
“I know what happened with this one because the games are broadcast live. We play Arsenal on Boxing Day and our game against Man City was moved to the Sunday. The schedule meant, and Aston Villa wanted this as well, that we could have played Tuesday. We got overruled by the Premier League and the broadcasters.
“Sometimes the blame can be put on broadcasters. In conjunction with each other, and this was bounced around, it got decided that we play twice in 48 hours when other teams that are challenging at the top of the league play twice in three days. I don’t see how it’s a fair playing field. It’s wrong.”
Lampard believes the disruption to the calendar caused by Covid-19 has placed unprecedented demands on players. “People quite casually say: ‘Just get on with it.’ We’ve had two international breaks now where the players have been asked to play three games. Players play for their international team and then come back and play on the Saturday, an early kick-off or whatever, and then go again.
“The Christmas schedule is normally the hectic time but the hectic time has been throughout this season. So every little win you can get by using common sense, take those to try and help player welfare. This situation, it’s compromising the players. It also compromises the competition because others don’t have to do the same.
“I hear a lot about, ‘We will have conversations’ and not much actually gets done. I have sympathy for the scheduling, for the difficult times. But when you’re given two teams asking for the game to be played one day later, why would you not do that? That surprises me.”
Chelsea are likely to be without their first-choice full-backs, Ben Chilwell and Reece James, against Arsenal and Villa. Chilwell suffered an ankle injury during last Monday’s win over West Ham and James is struggling with a knee problem.