By Lou Uhler, Chicago Blues
I was going to post this Wednesday before the game vs Everton, but I thought that if I did and CFC did not win, I would be given more vitriol than Rafa Benitez.
This still does have importance, as it appears Chelsea will play at least two, with a good chance for three, more games during the midweek.
Before Wednesday, it always seemed to me that Chelsea struggle during those midweek night games. I mean last year you had that stupid freaking 1-1 draw at WBA, and the home draw vs West Ham, that I think set the record for shots without a goal, and I KNOW set the record for number of times I threw a stapler at my computer at work.
Even midweek wins in recent years have been struggles. Chelsea entered decent U.S. soccer trivia by becoming the team to give Jozy Altidore his only PL goal in an eventual 4-3 win, and a game that for some reason I thought was a League Cup game until after it was over. Hell, the year Chelsea won the league, they drew 0-0 away to Hull and needed a penalty late-ish to beat Portsmouth at home, although to be fair they pulverized Pompey away and battered Birmingham at the Bridge that very season. Going into Wednesday’s game vs Everton, I was thinking more about the bad then the good, and I wanted to see if my fear was justified, or if I was having a bit of selective memory.
I not only thought about the effect of Wednesday games relating to Chelsea, but also to the entire league. It seems games are tighter during the week. It’s tougher for the “big” clubs. Part of the question “Could Messi do it on a cold rainy night in Stoke” is the fact that it mentions “night”, and weekday games almost exclusively start at either 7:45 or 8:00.
I don’t have the number for the entire PL, but 77% of Chelsea games are on the weekends, thus they are always over before 7:45. The mere fact that the surroundings (light vs dark) have changed, as well as the time of game (studies have shown that time a game starts has a huge effect on games, although this is more true when looking at teams for different time zones) could have an effect on performance. Lack of rest could also be a factor, as midweek games can be sandwiched between two weekend games. I wanted to see if these factors did actually cause Chelsea to produce at a different level than we are used to during the more regular weekend games.
As with mostly any Chelsea history related question, I tweeted at the incredible @ChelseaStats. Even if you think that analytics people never played the game, never got the girl in high school, and should just not be listened to, @ChelseaStats is a great tool for Chelsea history (which I thought the club didn’t have).
A simple question to him returned the information I have below. It shows the record of Chelsea in the Premier League broken down by day of the week. A few things jumped out to me.
- The first is, yes, it seems for whatever reason, Chelsea do play worse on Wednesdays than on Saturday and Sunday. The fear that resulted from those bad memories was justified.
- I even combined Saturdays and Sundays, then compared it to Monday, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. When you look at it that way, Chelsea average 1.88 ppg game on weekends, and 1.75 during the week. The reason I grouped Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday together, is they are all usually night games. PL games played on Thursdays and Fridays are more than likely Boxing Day or New Year’s Day games. This season, Chelsea played a PL game on a Friday and one on a Thursday, both during the holiday period.
- One surprising fact when looking at the Wednesday number, is it is even worse than the Sunday record. I would think that overall, Sunday games are going to be tougher, as they are usually seen as “Game of The Week.” A lot of Chelsea’s games vs the likes of United, City, Arsenal, Liverpool etc are played on Sundays. Mourinho has excelled in games vs the “big” teams, but Chelsea’s record in the entire history of the PL in these games is impressive. Fun fact while we are on the subject of Sundays: Terrible Awful Worst Manager In Team History That Year Was Painful Rafa Benitez was a 2.36 ppg on Sundays during his Chelsea tenure.
I think this is enough of a sample size to be more than just an anomaly. I am a bit wary of this data, as the Chelsea of 2015 is far different than the Chelsea of 1992, when the sample began. In 1992, a draw midweek vs QPR would be good. A draw midweek vs QPR these days would be bad (My boy Rafa actually lost midweek vs QPR.)
What I would like to do, is see what this means across the league. Examining if the number of upsets were higher, or even if the number of draws went up, would show that playing a game during the week at night instead of a Saturday afternoon does have an effect. Right now, we can tell that historically, Chelsea have played worse during the week, and I feel this is some sort of true pattern, although having more data from the rest of the PL would be helpful.
Chelsea play West Ham away on Wednesday March 4, a game that will be made tougher possibility of 120 minutes the Sunday before (not that anybody is complaining about being in the League Cup final), while the Hammers have Palace away the Saturday before. CFC will also most likely be away to Leicester midweek at some point (I am guessing we will have to wait until at least after the two games vs PSG to get a solid date), and if Manchester United make the FA Cup semifinals, Chelsea will most likely play them during the midweek.
West Ham away was going to be tough, and now the fact that it will be midweek, with Chelsea having a day less of rest, will make it even tougher. LCFC will be another away test, and who really knows what type of performance United will bring, although you could look at the possibility of that game getting moved as a good or bad thing, as there is a chance it comes between two quarterfinal games in the Champions League.
A lot of noise is made every year about the fixture list. Who gets an easy start? Who has to endure a brutal finish? Where will the boys play on Boxing Day? Really, what people may need to focus more on, how many times do we have to play while I am supposed to be in a creative meeting, and will I be hiding sweat and swears from my boss on a Wednesday afternoon around 3:30 local time.