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Which Premier League clubs have the toughest festive fixtures?

| 13.11.2021

With the Premier League now having announced the television schedule for December, we have analysed the games to see which teams have been handed the toughest and easiest festive fixtures this year.

When are the Premier League’s festive fixtures this year?

While there is some debate about when the festive period begins, the start of the Premier League fixture congestion is when it starts to get real for players and fans alike. With fatigue and injuries beginning to make their presence felt – along with the worst of British weather – the rest periods between league matches suddenly become much shorter.

This year there are three rounds of games crammed in on either side of Christmas Day that will require some serious commitment from both players and the travelling fans who follow them around the country.

First of all, each team plays three matches in an 11-day span from Friday 10th December to Monday 20th December. Then, after a break in the lead-up to Christmas Day, there are three more rounds of games squeezed into just nine days.

The ordeal ends with the New Year’s Day fixtures, after which players can rest and hope that their manager names a heavily-rotated side for the FA Cup third round the following weekend.

Which team has the least rest over Christmas?

While every team will play six times between December 10th and January 3rd, the scheduling of matches for broadcast means that some teams have less time to prepare than others.

Assuming that every match kicks off on time and lasts exactly 90 minutes with a 15-minute break for half-time, then some teams have an extra three days’ worth of breathing room than others. Wolves and Manchester United have both been short of their best this season but they, along with high-flying Brentford, have around 23 days to complete their six festive matches.

Premier League festive fixtures

Meanwhile four clubs – three of whom have been balancing European commitments this season – have to pack their six games into just over 20 days. Leicester, West Ham and Tottenham are the three clubs whose midweek exertions in the Europa League and Europa Conference League will be added to the strain of a compressed festive schedule.

The fourth club with a squeezed schedule is Crystal Palace, who have barely rotated their squad at all under new manager Patrick Vieira but will surely have their squad depth tested during a frantic December.

We can also examine those two groups of three matches more closely and see which clubs have to complete three games in the shortest amount of time. Liverpool have been given the most breathing room as their closest run of three games spans around seven and a quarter days from the first kick-off to the third full-time whistle. This gives them more than a day’s additional rest to title rivals Manchester City, who will complete three games within six days during the festive period.

Premier League festive fixtures

The team which is the most hard done by here is Newcastle, who may be pushed into the transfer market even further than their new owners had planned if completing three matches in less than five days and 20 hours results in a spate of injuries.

What are the shortest gaps between two festive fixtures?

For 14 of the 20 Premier League clubs, the quickest turnaround between two matches comes after the Boxing Day fixtures. Arsenal have to endure the most rapid of all, with their Boxing Day trip to Norwich scheduled to end less than 44 hours before they have to host Wolves at the Emirates Stadium.

Premier League festive fixtures

Once again it is Manchester United and Brentford who avoid any ridiculously short turnaround times, with almost three days to complete their two closest fixtures. For both clubs, each game takes place at roughly the same time in the evening, minimising disruption to the players’ routines.

Which teams’ fans have the furthest to travel over Christmas?

It is not just the time spent on the pitch that can take its toll over the festive period. The amount of travelling that players and fans alike have to endure can also sap their constitutions.

While a typical six-game stretch would include three games at home and three away, that is only the case for half of the Premier League’s 20 clubs in this particular sequence.

Premier League festive fixtures

Newcastle’s position in the north-east can work to their advantage when they are playing at St James’ Park, forcing opponents to make a long and potentially tiring trip, but this year it is likely to count against them. Four of the Magpies’ six fixtures in this period are away games, with a combined distance of 1,716 miles by road to cover, based on the most popular routes between each stadium.

Premier League festive fixtures

Their most gruelling trip comes right at the end of the festive schedule: a 645-mile round trip to Southampton on January 2nd, which is the longest journey that any club has to make across these fixtures.

Meanwhile Crystal Palace, who have to cram their six festive fixtures into the shortest interval, at least do not have to factor in much travel time. Four of the Eagles’ six games are at Selhurst Park and their two away trips both involve a short hop across London: to Watford on December 18th and then Tottenham on Boxing Day.

Spurs themselves can consider themselves relatively lucky as despite four of their six games being away from home, they actually travel fewer miles than local rivals Arsenal who have four games at the Emirates.

Which teams tend to play better during the festive period?

While the fixture congestion around Christmas time presents a challenge for all teams, some have handled it better than others. We have analysed every club’s league results over the previous 10 seasons and worked out how many points they tend to earn from matches scheduled within two weeks of Christmas Day.

Two London teams stand out as having performed significantly better in festive fixtures. Tottenham and Brentford have both earned around a quarter of a point more per match on average in matches close to Christmas, with the two Manchester clubs also seeing a noticeable boost.

Whether this comes down to better training preparations or squad depth is unclear, but whatever the reason it means that fans of these clubs can be more confident than most of being rewarded for making the wintry trek to watch their teams in action.

Premier League festive fixtures

Newcastle’s tendency to perform more poorly around this time of year is another source of worry for Magpies fans, with no current Premier League club seeing a larger proportional drop in points won during the last 10 seasons.

With south-coast clubs Brighton and Southampton also suffering during the festive fixtures, it seems that having to travel longer distances around Christmas time is a huge disadvantage in the English top flight.

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Andrew McDermott