Every year, it seems that there’s another Premier League coach distressed by the lack of recovery time during the holiday fixture list, with Great Britain’s insistence on playing matches at a time when the rest of mainland Europe takes a break.
This year, that coach is Wolverhampton Wanderers boss Nuno Espirito Santo.
Speaking ahead of his side’s match against defending champion Manchester City, Santo decried the way the fixtures were set up, which he feels – and he may have a point – puts Wolves at a disadvantage.
“All the teams have strong cases [to complain to the Premier League], but of all the schedule, we are the team that has less hours in this period – 45 hours between two games and 112 hours between the three games until New Year’s Day,” Santo said. “It’s going to be very tough, I think all of the managers are concerned and rightly so. I’m particularly concerned because I’ve been saying this; the schedule doesn’t make sense, it’s absurd. For all the teams.
“Of course, there are teams that have three days [between matches], but I don’t know what the particular reason why it’s us as Wolves who have less hours, but it’s a concern for all the managers and for all the players. We have to survive. We have to survive. Let’s see what happens. We will train tomorrow, then we prepare to play Man City, and we’ll see. Let’s try and survive.”
Matches over the festive period appears to be one of the last mainstays that connects English soccer’s present to its past, with global television audiences having dictated plenty of other changes, both to match days, match times, and uniforms. But while the rest of the major soccer powers take a rest during this time, England goes even more full throttle, packing in three matches between Boxing Day and New Years Day for some teams.
However, you can see why it’s a nightmare for coaches in England. Wolves, for example, faces Man City on Friday afternoon (U.S. time), Liverpool on Sunday morning, and then Watford on New Years Day. Especially for a team like Wolves which doesn’t necessarily have the depth that the big clubs have, it may mean Santo will have to sacrifice a match or two to make sure they pick up all three points when needed, as well as avoid injuries.
With coaches in the past hoping for a winter break, the Premier League has come up with a compromise: Every team will get a weekend off in February. That comes as a small consolation to coaches who may lose a player to a muscle strain now and have them out until February, but if teams can at least make it in one piece to February, they’ll get a little bit of time to rest, recover, and gear up for a final run before the season ends.