A late-winter break is a no-brainer. This week I learned that Cesc Fabregas and Theo Walcott will both miss this weekend’s League Cup Final Against Birmingham. Arsenal are still in 4 competitions this year, an impressive feat, but could fall victim to their own success. They have already played 43 games this year, and sadly for them, could still play another 23. The amount of games will surely put pressure on players and will not only lead to injuries but also burn-out. This could be solved by a winter break.
Their fixture list for the rest of the season is a bizarre one. They will have a 13 day break between the end of March and the beginning of April, only to go into April having to play 8 games. Similarly, Tottenham have more than 10 days off until their next game, but could also have 9 games in April.
The timing of these two ‘natural’ breaks at this stage of the season is an odd one. No doubt it was planned by the FA to allow players to recover. But such sporadic breaks will no doubt affect every club in a different way, depending on when they come in a season. Would it not make more sense to have an organised break at the same time, for every club, every season?
The idea of a winter break is a contentious one. Although almost every other league in Europe does it, the FA have always been reluctant to follow suit. And I can see why.
The Boxing Day and New Year’s day football matches are synonymous with Christmas for many families across the UK and the festive period just would not be the same without them. It is tradition in English football and not something I would want to see changed.
Arsene Wenger agreed recently but stressed the need for a winter break. He proposed that a break should come in January, following the festive frenzy. I can’t argue with a single word he said.
“I would like a winter break but after Christmas. Create a break after January for two weeks. We can go on holiday for one week and prepare for one week.”
There would be no league or domestic cup games for two weeks, giving the players a chance to recharge their batteries. This seems to make so much sense.
A club should not get a break, depending on how well or badly they do in a cup. This will only give the smaller Premiership sides, whose main focus is to retain their league status, a reason to not try and win their cup ties.
It has been reported that there are four times as many injuries in the Premiership between April and May than leagues that do have winter breaks. Furthermore, Wayne Rooney highlighted that “Towards the end of the season the intensity in some of the games which is normally there is missing”. A winter break could reduce injuries and keep the intensity of matches high.
Another alternative to a festive break has been to scrap international weekends. This is something I would love to see happen. International weekends do little but reduce my interest in the national side. Players do not seem up for it, and if they are the opposition are not. They are just not fun to watch.
A break in January would be beneficial in a commercial way too. Steve Bruce highlighted this week that clubs manage to draw in their biggest crowds of the season over the festive period. January on the other hand is not a busy time at matches as people are recovering from the excesses of Christmas. A January break would allow the Christmas period to carry on how it is, but then give payers a rest after a frenetic month. It just seems to make sense to me.
The other option, as proposed by Sir Alex Ferguson, is to have the winter break and then extend the season on into June. This might reduce the summer holiday, but would also reduce the accumulation of fatigue on players. All these reasons give a very strong case to a break in January. Surely it is only a matter of time before we see it come into existence?
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