The Premier League has finally joined Europe’s elite in giving players a much-needed break following another hectic festive schedule, but what does this mean in the long run, and is it a step in the right direction?
The short answer is yes; mid-campaign breaks are invaluable for teams to recoup and ready themselves for the business end of the season, and Gareth Southgate will breathe a sigh of relief as he prepares his plans for this summer’s Euro 2020.
Every winter, the period where English teams play the most games, complaints are made about the lack of respite. But the festive fixtures are ingrained in British football history so scrapping that will certainly be met by backlash from the media and the public.
Adding a two-week hiatus in February seemed the fairest solution, and was greeted by words of approval by the majority involved.
However, there has been controversy, with some teams recently dealt bad news and afforded less time off when FA Cup replays were announced.
This has led to disgruntled outbursts by affected managers, with Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp even stating he and his players will not be attending the tie, but rather delegating it to the academy youngsters.
Teams had been told to not organise any matches with the players’ welfare in mind, but that respect clearly hasn’t been reciprocated by the FA.
And whilst it may seem difficult at this point to find another suitable time, with the fifth round of the FA Cup already pencilled in, this is an issue which should have been looked at before the season began.
It should have been clear from the start, and accepted by all parties, that the break was non-negotiable, just like it is in the top leagues around Europe. There is still a way to go before we can honestly say that footballers’ health is at the forefront of decision-making at the top, but hopefully stances such as Klopp’s will be noted and lead to plain sailing in seasons to come.