Does Playing in Multiple Competitions Impact Performance of Top Clubs?

Liverpool FC v Fulham FC - Premier League
Liverpool FC v Fulham FC - Premier League / Clive Brunskill/GettyImages

For the Premier League’s top teams, qualifying for European play is a top priority. However, once a team qualifies to play in Europe, the following season promises a grinding schedule with play in four competitions–Europe, Premier League, FA Cup, and EFL Cup.

There is a lot of talk–and rightfully so–about the immense amount of play that such a schedule requires and the increasing physical demands it places on players. But how does this grind impact a team’s performance? Let’s discuss.

The Big Six–Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Tottenham, and Arsenal–dominate the Premier League’s European qualifying spots. In the past five seasons, Newcastle United is the only non-Big Six team to qualify for the Champions League, and only 3 non-Big Six teams have qualified for the Europa League.

The Bix Six domination continues into the FA Cup and EFL as well. In the past 20 years, only 6 non-Big Six teams have managed to win either the FA Cup or the EFL Cup.

But if the Bix Six are consistently playing matches in European leagues and going deep into domestic competitions, then how do they manage to achieve such results amidst their demanding schedules? 

It would be reasonable to assume that the increased schedule would result in increased injuries and fatigue. This is undoubtedly true, but it’s not clear that this detrimentally impacts these teams' ability to finish in a top-spot in the domestic table or other domestic competitions. 

In the past four seasons, only one team has played in the Champions League and failed to finish in the top-6 of the Premier League. Moreover, 75% of teams that played in the Champions League also qualified for the following season’s UCL.

Two reasons for this immense success and domination surely are squad depth and the ability to replenish a roster after losing players to injuries and transfers.

Every Premier League club has amazingly talented players, but the top clubs have the advantage of a roster consisting of substitutes who would probably be in the starting 11 on most other squads. They also have the advantage of being able to sign top-talent during transfer windows.

Liverpool is unquestionably one of the highest performing clubs in the Premier League, and it enjoys the advantages mentioned above. However, as the Premier League often reminds those teams on top, nothing is guaranteed and you have to fight for every point.