The festive season in English football is typically fraught with fixture congestion, but Chelsea are feeling the strain more than most this year, thanks to their involvement in the Carabao Cup and Champions League – not to mention the extra midweek round of Premier League games shoehorned in to make room for the World Cup at the end of the season.
As you’d expect, therefore, manager Antonio Conte isn’t exactly thrilled with the extra pressure being put on his players during the winter months, and has added his voice to growing calls for the Premier League to consider introducing a mid-season break going forwards.
“It’s right to play during the Christmas period, but after it, you must have a break,” Conte told the club’s official website.
The Italian insisted that the standard of football would increase across all competitions were they allowed a couple of weeks to recharge their batteries and shake off any niggling injury concerns, adding: “The players need a bit of time to recover, one week, and then to restart. That would be right. You have to try to put every team in the best condition to be competitive in every competition.”
The 48-year-old also stated that the manager “needs a bit of rest”, as do his entire coaching staff and playing squad, before concluding: “It would be good to reflect on this situation, and try to find a new solution to help the players, and also to protect them from injuries.”
Due to his managerial and playing experience elsewhere in Europe, Conte is accustomed to the luxury of a long winter break: Italy’s Serie A typically breaks off for two weeks, while the German Bundesliga and France’s Liga 1 have their own festive off-season of up to four weeks.
The Christmas period in English football inevitably gives rise to managerial and player dissent year on year, but it is believed that lucrative TV rights deals have largely stood in the way of a winter break being introduced to the Premier League. That said, Premier League chairman admitted last year that talks into a mid-season break are “ongoing”, and could be introduced as soon as the 2019/2020 season.