Premier League managers must earn their salt over festive period

By Jonathan White Source:Global Times Published: 2017/11/28 23:08:40

We're but a third into the Premier League season, and anyone with access to a calculator and understanding of multiplying by three can speculate how many points Manchester City are going to finish the season with and the extrapolation that they will proceed unbeaten. One man disagrees, though, and he happens to be Pep Guardiola.

The City manager is confident in this. "We are going to lose, that is going to happen. Definitely," said Guardiola to Sky Sports following his side's comeback win over Huddersfield Town on Sunday. The reason for the Catalan's certainty? The upcoming schedule for December and January.  "Playing one day a week, maybe … but when you play every three days … it's impossible."

Guardiola pointed out that City travel to Shakhtar Donetsk for their ­final Champions League group game and that comes during a December that sees his side play nine matches. Even with the opportunity to rest players for the game in Kharkiv having already won their group, Guardiola will need to take at least a match-day squad of 18 on a 5,000-kilometer round trip just days before the Manchester derby.

Both Manchester clubs, the current top two in the Premier League, also have a Carabao Cup quarterfinal to play in ­December before January kicks off with the 22nd round of Premier League fixtures of the season, followed by all of the top-flight clubs entering the FA Cup in the first weekend of the New Year.

It's no wonder that the fixtures of the festive period in England are almost always described as grueling. For teams in Europe, still in the League Cup and fortunate enough to progress in the FA Cup, that could mean at least 15 games during December and January.

To put that in context, the top teams of the Premier League have a busier ­winter than the Football League sides that play an extra eight league games, and in the top flight there is almost no chance of a game being postponed. Elsewhere, while Premier League players are working like sled dogs, their counterparts on the continent will be putting their feet up. 

It is no wonder that managers bemoan the lack of a winter break in England - and it's not just domestically it has an impact. Chelsea boss Antonio Conte and his predecessor Jose Mourinho rarely see eye to eye but both have suggested that this disparity compared to other leagues is to blame for the recent struggles of English sides to make the latter stages of the Champions League.

The impact even threatens to go beyond the season. English clubs, mostly from the Premier League, provided 119 players at the last World Cup - the largest number over any other nation's domestic leagues by almost 40. That's a trend that is set to continue in Russia next summer, and it assures plenty of players will have an eye on getting a rest over the coming months, one way or another.

What this all means is that the men in charge will have to weather some long, cold nights to come out the other side with their hopes of titles - and records - alive.

As Guardiola himself said on a recent cold November night in Huddersfield, "Winter has come."

The author is a Shanghai-based freelance writer.


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