Liverpool right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold insists the Premier League are making demands that are “not fair” and “not physically possible” on players this season. The Reds have been ravaged by injuries in recent months with Alexander-Arnold himself currently sidelined.
The England defender is nursing a calf injury which he sustained at Manchester City earlier this month while Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez could miss the rest of the season with knee problems that have both required surgery.
Elsewhere, Jordan Henderson, Naby Keita, Thiago Alcantara, lisson Becker and Fabinho are among the raft of other Liverpool players to succumb to fitness issues.
And Alexander-Arnold, speaking to the Daily Mirror, insists players are suffering from a punishing fixture schedule.
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has repeatedly made clear his frustrations with broadcasters, with the Premier League champions facing Brighton at 12.30pm on Saturday this weekend having only faced Atalanta in the Champions League at 8pm on Wednesday night.
Alexander-Arnold said: “We get paid to play football, so we can’t complain about having to play games. But we have to give a thought to our bodies. It’s not right to put a human body through so much intensity.
“You look at marathon runners, people who do triathlons and cyclists on the Tour de France. They train for so long to compete in such quick succession.
“You have to train for those sort of distances – and our bodies aren’t trained to do that. We have 90 minute hits, we have to recover from that.
“But when you’re asked to do that so quickly, it’s not fair and the human body cannot cope with that.
“You’ve got to think that of the three-month lockdown, we had to try and stay as fit as possible.
“We were doing four or five sessions a week, not knowing when we were going to come back. We had to stay relatively match fit in case it came back on quickly.
“Going straight back into games. It hurt a lot of players without much of a build-up.”
The 22-year-old agrees with his manager Klopp that reverting to the use of three substitutes, rather than having five as the Premier League did post-restart, is damaging players.
He continued: “We’ve got a long season, the Euros in the summer and any normal season this would be fine. As players, we are used to playing two or three games a week. That’s not changed.
“What’s different is the knock-on effect of the corners that have been cut at the start. If we’d have had a three or four week pre-season for each team and then be told to do this, you’d have a lot fewer injuries than are happening now.
“But people have cut corners at the start, so no-one’s body was ready to withstand this intensity.
“It’s hard to believe that it [the five-sub rule] has not been brought in. Looking at the EFL, they’ve allowed it.
“It doesn’t make any sense whatsoever that in the most intense league in the world, we’re only using three substitutions.
“Every other organisation and league and Champions League, UEFA and internationals are all using it.”
Van Dijk suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury after a heavy challenge from Everton’s Jordan Pickford while Gomez went down with a patellar tendon problem in England training despite no team-mate being near him.
And Alexander-Arnold – now a brand ambassador for sports nutrition brand Kinetica – is worried that such injuries are largely caused by a lack of proper rest and recovery between matches.
Liverpool only got around four weeks off between last season and this season and have played 16 competitive matches since August 29, with three international breaks incorporating eight games in between.
The Liverpool academy graduate added: “I think it’s proven by now that the main source of knee, ankle and joint injuries is from fatigue.
“It’s because you are tired and when you land, you are not really putting your leg in the right position, you don’t have the energy to absorb the jump or the landing.
“I think I had maybe three or four training sessions before I played 80 minutes and, from there, I was straight into the season.
“A lot of people think you just turn up and play. But it’s 24/7. I’m always questioning everything.
“What I eat, how many hours of sleep I need, I have to question whether it’s going to be beneficial or hinder me. If it’s going to hinder me, then I have to say no.
“The fitness levels we need as a team need to be up there with the highest in the league, if not the highest in Europe as well.”