One of the most unique and best features of the Premier League is the busy festive schedule, with teams playing games every few days while the weather outside is frightful and the fire is so delightful. And since we’ve got no place to go, let it football, let it football, let it football.
Close behind the classic fixture list is the classic feature of managers complaining about the fixture list. I don’t know if this is only a recent invention of the Premier League or if the Proper Football Men of the ‘50s and ‘60s also talked about fatigue and periodization and whatever other modern fitness concepts we subscribe to nowadays. (After all, back in the olden days, teams would usually play twice in three days, sometimes even on consecutive days!)
So here’s Chelsea boss Antonio Conte with this year’s version of the holidays humbugs.
“It’s right to play during the Christmas period, but after it you must have a break. It’s not simple. The players and the coaches are very tired, because this busy period starts in November, not December. From November until the end of January, you play every three days, especially if you go through in all the competitions.
“The players need a bit of time to recover, one week, and then to restart. That would be right. You have to try to put every team in the best condition to be competitive in every competition. In February the Champions League restarts, and you arrive there very tired when you play a lot of games without even a week to rest and to breathe a bit.
“It would be good to reflect on this situation, and try to find a new solution to help the players, and also to protect them from injuries.”
But wait, there is more!
“The manager needs a bit of rest, especially when you play 25 games in two-and-a-half months. I am talking about all the players and all the coaches, not only me.
“To prepare for a game every three days you spend a lot of energy: preparing analysis videos, preparing tactical work, preparing your team to play in a different system with different opponents. This is not simple. If you only played, you wouldn’t have great difficulties. But when there is work behind a game, to prepare for it, you have to work very hard, me, and especially my staff.”
-Antonio Conte; source: Chelsea FC
While I appreciate where Conte (and all the other managers who complain about this every year, Mourinho chief amongst them) are coming from, losing the festive schedule would be a big loss for the appeal of the league. It’s a unique calling card for the English game, with a ready-made audience and lots of games that matter. And it’s not like English teams have never won the Champions League or achieved outstanding doubles and trebles.
Chelsea’s festive schedule is rather kind, even, just like last season. With Christmas falling on a weekend and Boxing Day on Tuesday, it’s basically just more of the same Saturday-Tuesday/Wednesday-Saturday pattern. Everton trip on two days’ rest aside, it’s hardly anything out of the ordinary. So, time to keep rotating the squad, make some smart decisions, and get on with the games.
Let it football.