It used to be a lot easier. All top flight matches used to be played on a Saturday at 3pm GMT. There were no early kick-offs. No late kick-offs and, heaven forbid, no Sunday matches. Now, of course, everything has been turned upside down.
Because only a few of the matches are played at the same time these days, it makes me wonder how much the results are being affected. Take this past weekend for example. Arsenal drew Middlesbrough 1-1 in the early kick-off. Chances are good that the Liverpool and Manchester United players were watching the game on television. If not, they undoubtedly knew the result of the game before they played their matches against Hull and Spurs respectively.
How much of a psychological impact did the Arsenal draw have on Liverpool and Man United players? It’s impossible to know for sure but it’s very possible that Liverpool and Man United players may have breathed a sigh of relief that the Gunners are falling further behind the pack. In contrast, an emphatic win by Arsenal at the Riverside Stadium may have given ‘Pool and United players an additional incentive to win their own matches.
Then, there was the Sunday match between Chelsea and West Ham United. The Blues, knowing that Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United all drew on Saturday, knew that a win against West Ham would have moved Chelsea into first place in the league. However, they crumbled and ended the match 1-1.
If anything, knowing that a win was necessary to move into top spot probably put more pressure on the Chelsea players.
It makes you wonder how the results would have been different if all four of the matches involving the Big Four had been played at the same time.
It’s not just the Big Four that I believe are psychologically affected by the results of their fellow teams. After seeing Middlesbrough’s brave 1-1 draw against Arsenal, that display probably gave Hull City and Tottenham Hotspur self belief in that they too could pull off a surprise draw or win.
The same applies to West Ham who may have been inspired by the display of Hull City and Spurs to help them go on and score the first goal against Chelsea and end the game 1-1 in a heroic fight.
A similar example happened a few weeks ago when three of the Big Four teams had nil nil results (Chelsea 0-0 Newcastle, Liverpool 0-0 Fulham, and Aston Villa 0-0 Manchester United). Arsenal was the exception when they lost 3-0 to Manchester City that weekend.
I’m convinced that the results have a big impact on each of the teams in the Big Four. Teams will never admit this, but many of them take their feet off the accelerator, feeling that they’re in a safety zone if one of their biggest rivals wins or draws. Sure, Premier League teams always want to go out and win their matches, but as we can see from trends during the past few weeks, there is no one team that’s walking away with the Premier League title this season. It’ll probably come down to the one team who can maintain a consistent run of form near the top of the table. Until then, we’ll continue to experience the topsy turvy results in the Premier League.