Labelled a “disaster” by Pep Guardiola, and the reason for an official complaint made by West Brom before the Baggies loss to West Ham; the Premier League Christmas fixture list has, predictably, infuriated managers this season with an extra game being squeezed into the calendar due to the season finishing earlier ahead of the summer World Cup.
The majority of Premier League clubs playing four times across 15 days has seen the last 11 rounds of the league packed into 47 days, compared to the first 11 being played over 87. If Fantasy Football managers have a headache – trying to compensate for squad rotation, and forgetting to update starting XI’s around the festive period with games becoming more regular than a Jose Mourinho complaint – then managers frustration at the overcrowding of fixtures is understandable with injuries increasing over 40% since the 2011/12 season.
“We’re going to kill the players. They play 11 months in a row. They have to protect them and play with quality and not quantity. We have to think about the artists.”
— Pep Guardiola, speaking to BBC Sport following Manchester City’s 3-1 victory over Watford
With Premier League injuries on the rise, the total wage bill for injured players was at £180,437,380 million for the 2016/17 season – over a £20million increase from the season before. The effect of the busy schedule over the Christmas period was clear to see last season with 143 injuries recorded in the Premier League during January, compared to 92 injuries in September; the combination of overcrowded fixtures and the weather evidently contributing to a busier physio room.
The knock-on effect is it is the English clubs who then suffer further down the line when the European fixtures come around in February; with all other major European leagues having a winter break, the fitness levels of La Liga, Bundesliga, Serie A, and Ligue 1 clubs are far fresher than English clubs in European competitions; it’s no wonder the semi-final stage of the Champions League has only twice featured English clubs since Chelsea’s victory in 2012.
The greater knock-on effect of the Premier League overscheduling is to the national side; not one player for England plays his club football abroad and the levels of intensity/lack of rest from playing is costing the team at major tournaments.
With this season being particularly injury prone because of the schedule due to the World Cup – there were 136 injuries in December, compared to an average of 103 between August and November – according to, Premierinjuries.com.
“Everybody’s asking why England is not too successful at tournaments.
“Ask what all other teams [in Europe] are doing at this time [Christmas]. They have their legs on the sofa and watch English football.”
— Jurgen Klopp
This is not to solely put the blame on a lack winter break leading to English incompetencies at major tournaments, but it’s likely that with one, the Three Lions at least go into the Euros and World Cups on a level playing field with those benefiting from extra recovery in European leagues.
The counter-argument is that the willingness of Premier League clubs to accept money from extra TV rights and games being squeezed into a short space of time for the sake of entertainment, means managers should stop the moaning and realise them constantly taking from the likes of Sky Sports and BT Sport extortionate offerings is the reason for the schedule being so crowded.
Regardless, the continual theme of more football through the years around this period is seeing a rise in injuries and again could come back to haunt the English clubs when the knock-out stages of the Champions League begin.