Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea will face a big test in the second half of the season with games postponed due to the Queen’s death.
All four grands already have two matches in reserve either out of respect for Elizabeth II or due to problems with the police and their inability to deal with the situation.
Let’s not forget the winter World Cup, which will stop club football for more than a month in November and December, and will further complicate the situation.
What can be done?
The Football Association is already considering scrapping replays in the third and fourth rounds of the FA Cup, as it has for the past two seasons in response to the disruption caused by Covid-19.
While this will help avoid a further backlog after Christmas, the mid-season World Cup will give top clubs very little room for maneuver if there are other unforeseen disruptions, such as the death of the Queen.
The postponed matches
All Premier League games were called off last weekend in honor of Elizabeth II, and United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea’s situation has been further complicated by further postponements this week.
Thursday’s Europa League match between Arsenal and PSV Eindhoven has been called off due to “severe police resource constraints and organizational issues related to the ongoing events surrounding Her Majesty’s National Mourning”, UEFA confirmed this week.
United’s clash with Leeds on Sunday has also been called off as Manchester police are unable to cope with the explosive derby as they lack sufficient staff.
Chelsea were due to play Liverpool at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, but that match will not take place for the aforementioned reasons.
Brighton v Crystal Palace also remains to be seen, but at least neither of the rivals is involved in European club competitions.
Premier League: “Following extensive consultation with clubs, the police, local safety advisory groups and other relevant authorities, there was no other option but to postpone the three matches. The Premier League would like to thank the British Football Policing Unit and other police forces across the country, as well as to our TV partners for their support during this process. Matches played during the national mourning will pay tribute to the queen of the stadiums. New dates for the postponed matches will be announced in due course.”
Manchester United: “The club reiterates that the safety and security of our fans is of the utmost importance and, having considered all available options, we support the decision which was taken in conjunction with the relevant authorities. We appreciate the frustration and inconvenience this may cause and thank you for your understanding and continued support.”
Manchester United’s options
Postponements pose a major problem for clubs involved in European competitions, with all those teams facing a Wednesday-Saturday cycle until the start of the World Cup. The upcoming international break presents yet another obstacle to an already overflowing schedule.
If any of these matches are scheduled before the 2022 World Cup, it will almost certainly mean playing them twice in 48 hours. If that is the case, United could have a game on Tuesday, October 25, immediately following the Chelsea derby the previous Saturday. The Devils will then face Sheriff Tiraspol in the Europa League at Old Trafford on Thursday, before the next home game against West Ham on Sunday. In view of the above, the concerns of Ten Haag and the others at United are completely understandable.
Liverpool are facing the same problems and Thursday October 6 looks like a potential fixture. The date follows Tuesday’s Champions League home game against Rangers and before Arsenal’s visit on Sunday. How willingly the Merseysiders would agree to such an option remains to be seen.
Arsenal could try to have a postponed game as early as Tuesday, October 4, immediately after the international break. The Gunners play Tottenham in the North London derby the previous Saturday before hosting Bodio/Glimt in the Europa League on Thursday.
The schedule is complicated by the fact that a place has to be found for another European game, which will also involve coordinating with the Dutch league to schedule the clash with PSV.
Thursday October 13 could be an option for Chelsea, but that is just 48 hours after they face AC Milan in Italy in the Champions League. The Blues then face Aston Villa away on Sunday. Neither option is ideal for the clubs involved, but at some point in the season compromises will have to be made. After the World Cup, Premier League action resumes around Christmas, after which the chaos becomes even more unimaginable as the FA Cup kicks off on January 7, 2023.