Chelsea’s limp 1-0 defeat against West Ham at the London Stadium today, was the sixth game they have played this season after having a Champions League fixture beforehand.
Of those six fixtures the reigning Premier League Champions have won just two, which shows they are clearly struggling with the extra demands that European football entails.
Antonio Conte was able to use a core of 13 players last season when his team had on average just the one game per week, but against London rivals West Ham today his side looked jaded and off the pace from the first minute, after a tough Champions League fixture against Atletico Madrid in midweek.
The former Juventus coach was aware that his squad needed to be strengthened this summer due to the extra demands they would face this season, and as Tiémoué Bakayoko and Davide Zappacosta put in sub standard displays today, it is easy to see why the Italian was so furious at missing out on a host of his first-choice transfer targets.
There is of course a valid argument that Chelsea’s manager should have made more changes from the team that played during the week, although changing a winning team and rotating too heavily also comes with its own risks.
Spurs are another team with a small squad, and their league form seems to have suffered lately from players being tired after their midweek exploits.
Surely other Premier League managers must feel they have a better chance against the leagues big boys when they have an extra three or four days of preparation time before these fixtures, and thats before even factoring in the effect of long distance travelling in some cases.
To be fair we should also include the Champions League ugly little sister the Europa League, which with its Thursday – Sunday turnaround for the unfortunate teams that qualify for that competition, means it can be even more disruptive.
This then begs the question: for one of the top-six clubs, would missing out on European competition entirely for a season be such a bad thing ?
Ok, so of course, there would be a financial hit to be taken and you may struggle to attract a certain quality of player if you couldn’t offer them European football. However, the last two Premier League Champions, both Chelsea and Leicester clearly had a massive advantage over their title rivals by not having to play in European Competition.
Also, Liverpool who came a Steven Gerard slip away from winning the league in 2013/2014 also built their title push on the one game a week model.
It is obviously not impossible to compete in the Premier League and the Champions League, but what is definitely clear is that you need a squad full of quality and depth to compete in both competitions simultaneously.