How long is a piece of string?
If anything is possible, is it possible for anything to be impossible?
Can you really expect the unexpected?
These are examples of unanswerable questions; so-called because there isn’t an answer available without additional context.
Presumably somebody, somewhere – at the Premier League, most likely – knows why Liverpool play so many of their games at 12:30pm on a Saturday, and why that is so commonplace immediately after the international break.
But getting an answer….well, it feels like another of those unanswerable questions.
As confirmed by Squawka, since the start of the 2019/20 season, the Reds have played six times at 12:30pm on a Saturday immediately after an international break….double the tally of any other Premier League side.
Liverpool have had DOUBLE the amount of 12:30 kick-offs following an international break in the last five-seasons than any other Premier League side.
And they have the early kick-off after November’s break as well. 🙃
— Squawka (@Squawka) October 21, 2023
And, lo and behold, guess what day and time Liverpool’s meeting with Manchester City straight after the international break in November is at? You got it: Saturday, 12:30 GMT.
So is this merely a coincidence, or is there something more sinister at play?
Out to Lunch
You can forgive Jurgen Klopp for having something of a persecution complex about the situation.
When quizzed for the umpteenth time for the matter back in September, he rather lost his cool in a press conference – branding Premier League chiefs a ‘joke’ for the predictability of their fixture scheduling.
“We have players in South America that I haven’t seen yet, and we play in 24 hours. It’s a joke,” was his rather terse reply to that line of questioning.
You won’t find a response on the matter from the Premier League – how do you answer an unanswerable question, after all? – and if you did, they would offer up some hokum about the randomness of how the fixture list is decided.
According to the EPL website, the Premier League fixture list is decided thus:
“We place each club in a pairing grid, which defines the dates they will be at home. For every date in the season, the fixture computer knows which clubs are at home and who are away and then it will mix them up randomly to determine the matches.
“You can’t satisfy everyone. It’s a compromise across all clubs; you can’t do anything to favour any one club.”
The conclusion is that the number of 12:30 kick offs that Liverpool face on Saturdays after the international break is simply bad luck; they have been on the wrong side of variance, according to those who oversee such matters.
Maybe don’t explain it to Klopp in those words, though….
What is Liverpool’s Record in 12:30 Kick Offs?
|21/10/23||Everton (Home)||Won 2-0|
|16/9/23||Wolves (Away)||Won 3-1|
|1/4/23||Man City (Away)||Lost 4-1|
|11/3/23||Bournemouth (Away)||Lost 1-0|
|21/1/23||Chelsea (Home)||Drew 0-0|
|22/10/22||Nott’m Forest (Away)||Lost 1-0|
|3/9/22||Everton (Away)||Drew 0-0|
|6/8/22||Fulham (Away)||Drew 2-2|
|30/4/22||Newcastle (Away)||Won 1-0|
|2/4/22||Watford (Home)||Won 2-0|
|12/3/22||Brighton (Away)||Won 2-0|
|16/10/21||Watford (Away)||Won 5-0|
|21/8/21||Burnley (Home)||Won 2-0|
|24/4/21||Newcastle (Home)||Drew 1-1|
|13/2/21||Leicester (Away)||Lost 3-1|
|19/12/20||Crystal Palace (Away)||Won 7-0|
|28/11/20||Brighton (Away)||Drew 1-1|
|17/10/20||Everton (Away)||Drew 2-2|
|7/3/20||Bournemouth (Home)||Won 2-1|
|14/12/19||Watford (Home)||Won 2-0|
|28/9/19||Sheffield Utd (Away)||Won 1-0|
|14/09/19||Newcastle (Home)||3-1 Win|
There are serious ramifications from a procession of early kick-off times after an international break.
A squad like Liverpool’s is, by the very nature of modern football, made up of players from across the globe. And with scant regard paid by international fixture list compilers for club football, it means that individuals could be playing in South America late on a Wednesday evening before having to travel back to England and prepare for a Premier League game a day or two later – jetlag or no jetlag.
Klopp has spoken of a lack of recovery time for his players after their international travels before.
“The boys have come back from all over the world, played completely different systems and we have one session to make sure they are reminded on what we do.”
Contrarians will argue that it’s the same for both teams, which is true. But the fact that Liverpool play so many of these early games after the international break is enough to create a persecution complex.
The good news is that the challenges faced don’t seem to cause too much of a problem on the pitch. In those six games played after the international break, Liverpool have won four, scored 16 and kept three clean sheets – suggesting that the players are able to respond quickly to the situation.
But there’s other complications. Early kick-offs on Saturdays are notorious for their low key, almost library-like atmosphere – something Klopp noted before a contest in the timeslot with Watford two seasons ago.
“What we need for this game is a sensational, the best 12:30 atmosphere ever. Not nervous, not tense… if you can’t shout and sing or whatever then stay at home and give your ticket to someone else, please.”
The law of averages suggests that Liverpool should, probabilistically speaking, have fewer Saturday 12:30 games after the international break in future – presuming, of course, that the Premier League fixture computer truly is random.
Given that the atmosphere at Anfield is at its best for 3pm and evening kick offs, that’s something that all football fans can cheer.