Is the winter break UNFAIR to the big clubs? Man United and Arsenal will face fresher teams when Premier League has a full set of fixtures this weekend, and here’s why…
- The nature of the Premier League’s winter break will actually harm some teams
- Manchester United will have three days preparation for their game with Watford
- The Hornets will come into the game at Old Trafford on the back of 15 days off
- Arsenal have the same problem when they welcome Everton to the Emirates
A quirk of the Premier League’s first winter break will leave Manchester United and Arsenal playing against far fresher opposition once all the top flight teams are back in action.
A combination of the split nature of the winter break – in which the 20 clubs do not take their two-week break at the same time – and the return of European football leaves certain clubs at a notable disadvantage during the first full weekend of fixtures after the break is complete.
Manchester United, for example, will face Watford on February 23 in what will be their third fixtures in six days, while their opponents will play on the back of a 15-day break.
Manchester United will play three games in six days after the winter break is finished
Watford will be fresh from a 15-day break when they travel to Old Trafford later this month
HOW THE WINTER BREAK WORKED?
– 8 teams played the weekend of 8/9 February and 12 on the weekend of 15/16 February
– With no mid-week fixtures*, all teams have had at least two weeks off
– The Premier League returns to a normal full weekend on February 22
This means that Watford will have had vastly more time to prepare for that fixture specifically, and will be at peak fitness following their lengthy break.
United’s fixture congestion immediately on return from their winter break is explained by the return of the Europa League on February 20, when they travel to play Club Brugge.
But the Premier League fixture schedule could be seen to favour certain teams, particularly those not involved in European football, during this specific set of fixtures on February 22, 23 and 24.
It is a potential problem that the Premier League could have simply avoided had they insisted on all 20 clubs taking their two-week break at the same time, rather than splitting the league in half and ensuring there would be league games played on every weekend during the break period.
This only served to guarantee TV rights holders that they would not have a week without games to broadcast.
Arsenal star Mesut Ozil and his team-mates will have three days to prepare to play Everton
Arsenal also have the same problem as United when they meet Everton at the Emirates Stadium on February 23.
Arsenal return to action against Newcastle on February 16 but must then also fly across the continent for a Europa League tie, heading to Greece to play Olympiacos.
That will leave them with just a three-day break before playing Everton.
Liverpool were also due to face a fresher team but circumstances have changed that
But for Carlo Ancelotti’s men, who played Crystal Palace at Goodison Park last weekend, they will enjoy a superb 15-day rest before heading to the Emirates Stadium.
Liverpool were also due to face a fresher team due to their own Champions League excursions but West Ham’s cancelled game at Manchester City means that is no longer the case.
The Hammers were set to have a 15 day break before playing Liverpool but will now have games against City and the Reds over a four day period. They take on Pep Guardiola’s side on Wednesday night.