For soccer fans, the next seven days are going to be pure bliss. Every Premier League club will play three games starting with Boxing Day (Dec.26th) and ending on New Year’s Day (Jan.1st); Arsenal and Chelsea will actually play four games between December 23 and January 1. The schedule of games provides BPL fans with the chance to escape from their holiday madness and plop down in front of their televisions to watch some spectacular footballing action.
But this logjam of matches also puts a real strain on Premier League players and managers.
At a time when they could be recuperating from a rigorous first half of the season and relaxing by a fireplace with some good food, players and managers are still braving the icy English elements in full preparation for three important league fixtures over a condensed period of time.
Football cynics will say they don’t care whether the scheduling is suitable to the players or managers because most are paid six figure salaries, live extravagant lifestyles and are treated like Gods throughout the year. But the fact is human beings need a break from work, and athletes are no exception to that.
Serie A, Ligue 1, the SPL and La Liga all give their clubs a few weeks off, while the Bundesliga shuts down its fixtures for nearly a month. The officials in charge of those leagues understand the amount of energy that it takes to compete on the sport’s highest level. They recognize how much damage can be done to a squad of players by pushing them to their physical limits over the course of a long season.
Every year around this time the argument for an English winter break is renewed and each year it is pushed to the side. The debate ends up being shelved by league officials because the bottom line for them is the Premiership is the most valuable league in the world; and the people in charge know that there is money to be made over the holidays. With every other major football league shut down the Premier League can take center stage on the world scene. And that’s an opportunity BPL officials aren’t going to pass up.
But the cost of playing matches in such rapid succession has proven to be really damaging for the majority of Premier League clubs. In eight out of the past ten seasons, BPL clubs that ended the season between seventh and twentieth place performed worse during the holiday schedule. More often than not these teams do not have the roster sizes that the ‘bigger’ Premier League clubs have. These ‘smaller’ clubs really have to navigate the holiday fixtures cautiously because if they exhaust their players to win one match, it will more than likely affect the result of their subsequent fixtures.
Take for example Steve Bruce and Hull City. On Boxing Day they will be hosting the defending champions of England, Manchester United. This is the type of match Hull City supporters have been waiting for since their club won promotion to the Premier League. The stadium will be filled to its capacity and the noise level will be deafening inside the KC Stadium for nearly three hours. It’s a chance for Hull City players to prove that they can compete with one of the most storied clubs in world football. They will be jacked up for this matchup from the time their bus pulls up to the stadium.