As we enter 2018, the World Cup in Russia is little under six months away, and with the title race in England already seemingly over, media attention will slowly start to turn to England’s chances. The Premier League is just exiting the hugely busy festive period, with many sides facing tow games in as little as 48 hours. The schedule has been the same way for a number of years now, with the big TV companies, whether that be Sky, BT or any other rival that has come and gone, looking to exploit the multitude of workers who are at home over the Christmas and New Year period.
It’s a period that can truly make or break your season. The media meltdown around Manchester United’s “crisis” has been phenomenal, despite not losing a single league game in that time. Manchester City are still flying high, even though they dropped their first points since August in a draw at Crystal Palace. This unprecedented run has earned them many plaudits and admirers, and deservedly so, but it’s also turned every word Pep Guardiola says into gospel. The Spaniard was able to shrug off what looked a hugely aggressive verbal attack on Nathan Redmond on the pitch after his City side had just struck the winner against Southampton, and simply attribute it to praising the player.
After City’s 3-1 victory over Watford last night, Guardiola declared that this hectic schedule would “kill the players.” This statement is wide of the mark, and should be ignored. The winter break debate is often brought around every January as a way to justify apparent England failures in major tournaments.
This is way off the mark. England fail at major tournaments because of inept management and poor squads. England haven’t had a good squad managed by a coherent manager since 2006. This current squad will be filled with doubt. The number one goalkeeper currently sits on the West Ham bench, full-backs suffer persistent injuries, there’s no settled centre-back pairing, and Gareth Southgate is absolutely bereft of a good defensive midfield option.
The argument for a winter break isn’t supported by any evidence of benefit on a club or national level. English clubs don’t win the Champions League because they’re not as good as the elite Spanish, German and Italian teams, not because they’re too tired.
On a national level it’s much the same. In the 2014 World Cup, eventual champions Germany had four squad members who played in England. Andre Schurrle, Lukas Podolski, Per Mertesacker and Mesut Ozil. While not all four of those played integral roles in the squad, Ozil certainly did, as one of the outstanding performers in the entire tournament.
Euro 2016 finalists France and Portugal had squads with several players playing in England, also. Semi-finalists Wales had just one player from outside of the UK, that being Gareth Bale, of course. The winter break argument is a complete myth.
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featured image credit Sky Sports