Football Expert & Columnist
Off Script | Jamie Carragher and the facts about fatigue
"When we went to the Club World Cup in 2005 it didn't affect us at all when we came back. We played Newcastle when we came back - that's probably why it didn't affect us!"
Last Updated: 03/12/19 8:49am
With Liverpool on the cusp of an arduous December schedule, Jamie Carragher takes a closer look at fatigue in football in the latest edition of Off Script.
Liverpool have made a sensational start to the season, winning 13 of their opening 14 Premier League games, but for anyone thinking the hard work was done for Jurgen Klopp's side, think again - it starts now.
By the end of December, the Reds will have competed across four competitions - Premier League, Champions League, Carabao Cup and Club World Cup - in a mammoth set of fixtures that will see them clock up close to 10,000 miles in travel and test their trophy-winning credentials like never before.
It's a schedule that would have once struck fear into managers, players and fans but is now one which Carragher argues is part in parcel of the modern game...
"There's no doubt it is a tough run of fixtures for Liverpool, but no player, with the exception of maybe Virgil van Dijk, will play every game.
"Players fly all over the world now and come straight back to their clubs. Years ago there was concern over what kind of effect it would have on them but, believe me, they are well looked after now.
"In years gone by, players wouldn't have been allowed to fly off at the rate they do now - I remember Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane jetting off to the African Footballer of the Year awards before a big game - but the age of first-class travel means they are there and back, and back in training before you know it."
'You're only tired when you're not winning'
Liverpool fans will be hoping this old adage still applies when the New Year comes around. The Reds have found the answer to each and every obstacle placed in front of them this season, but will cracks start to appear once fatigue sets in?
Carragher is confident that the Liverpool of 2019 is as equipped as ever to deal with whatever is thrown at them over the next four weeks.
"Years ago this may have been the case when club's had 14-man squads. If you think of Graeme Souness' Liverpool team, the team that started on the first day of the season were there on the last day of the season. But now there's a lot of chopping and changing, sports science is involved and it's all about getting the edge on your opponents.
"Managers didn't feel the need to change the team or rotate back in the day, you were told tiredness was in your head! That approached worked because the team you were facing were in the exact same position as you. There was no advantage to gain.
Liverpool's packed December
- Dec 4: Everton (h)
- Dec 7: Bournemouth (a)
- Dec 10: RB Salzburg (a)
- Dec 14: Watford (h)
- Dec 17: Aston Villa (a)
- Dec 18: CWC semi-final (n)
- Dec 21: CWC final or 3rd PO (n)
- Dec 26: Leicester (a)
- Dec 29: Wolves (h)
"It's like the drinking culture in the 70s and 80s, all the Liverpool players were drinking but so were all of the other teams, they won because they were the best team. Now, it's all about trying the get the little one or two per cents here and there that can add to your game that will give you that extra edge over a four to six-week period.
"Yes, at times players will be tired, but it's about getting them out of them team, getting someone else fresh in before they get tired. The skill is coupling that with trying to avoid losing games or dropping points or the other detrimental effects tiredness can have."
Club World Cup - a winter break in disguise?
Liverpool's squad and resources will be pushed to the max in mid-December when they travel to Qatar for the 2019 FIFA Club World Cup.
The Reds face a semi-final against either Al Hilal or Esperance Sportive de Tunis on December 18 with victory likely to set up a final against Copa Libertadores champions Flamengo three days later. They then have to hot foot it back for their Boxing Day meeting with Leicester in the Premier League.
But when you factor in the level of opposition in Qatar, the warm-weather training and the chance to secure more silverware, does that outweigh the negatives of the near 7000-mile round trip?
"When we went to the Club World Cup in Japan in 2005 after winning the Champions League, it didn't affect us at all when we came back. We played Newcastle when we came back - that's probably why it didn't affect us!
"The first game for Liverpool this time around in Qatar is a game Liverpool should win, so a lot of the top stars will probably save themselves for the final, which will be a tough game.
"I'm not looking at that tournament fearing it will take anything out of them, if anything, it's the amount of games in that period that will.
"The Club World Cup was a bonus for us when I went, we had a really good end to the season in 2006, winning the FA Cup, but it won't be the same for this Liverpool team.
"I think the domestic cup competitions may fall away for Liverpool in the New Year, I don't think they will be too interested in them with the Premier League and Champions League, if they get through."