Sunderland’s Gus Poyet was the latest manager to criticise the Premier League fixture pileup around the Christmas period, with the former Chelsea midfielder stating how unfair it is for sides to be expected to play less than 48 hours after a league game.
Like the majority of the sides in the country, Sunderland played on Boxing Day (December 26th) this year, and face Aston Villa on the 28th, before having their third game in a week against Manchester City on New Years Day (January 1st).
With such little time in between fixtures, clubs can often endure shock defeats, while injuries aren‘t uncommon either.
“I know that Boxing Day games are a tradition and I accept that and think we should maintain it. But I think that then playing on the 28th is a disgrace. We shouldn’t be playing then, we shouldn’t,” said Poyet.
In the German Bundesliga, the sides in the top flight were given a six-week break between the middle of December (19th) until the end of January (30th), which allows the players a well-earned break at the mid-point of the season. So should such an idea be adopted in England?
Boxing Day fixtures are tradition, and one not likely to be changed any time soon, but could the games before and after be better spread out? The Premier League season starts in the middle of August, and could well start closer to the start of the month to allow a winter break for the players.
English clubs being forced to play three games in a week can be costly to their pre-season objectives, with title challengers potentially losing ground due to fatigue ahead of their fixtures, or relegation-threatened outfits suffering a slump in form.
Considering the winter transfer window also opens in January, it would make sense for clubs to be allowed a break so their newest recruits can settle in. Playing so many games in such little time is an obviously risk to players’ fitness, however, and something that could be so easily rectified if the idea was carried.
Any point in any game can turn out to be crucial in the domestic leagues, and it’s hardly fair for managers to be forced to change personnel around due to the little rest period. Not many clubs can boast such great strength in depth, and Sunderland need every one of their usual starting eleven fully fit.
Poyet is one of many managers who is unhappy with the Christmas schedule, but should it be reviewed?