MARTIN KEOWN: The winter break comes too late but it’s a step in the right direction… though Chelsea and Manchester United are the big winners as they have most days off
- Premier League clubs are currently on a two-week recovery winter break
- Former defender Martin Keown thinks the break should come earlier in the year
- Arsenal and Liverpool are using the break for some warm weather training
- Some teams – like Chelsea – are letting their players go on holiday over the break
Another round of Premier League fixtures kicks off on Saturday, but not as we know it.
In the inaugural winter break eight teams will play on Saturday and Sunday, while the remaining 12 will complete match day 26 next weekend. They get the break they wanted, and the Premier League product never leaves our television screens.
But is this coming at the right time? I’m not so sure.
Martin Keown says the winter break is a positive idea but not all the teams benefit from it
Keown’s former club Arsenal are using the break to undergo warm weather training in Dubai
I’d rather see this break take place closer to the halfway point of the season. February feels too late, but this is still a significant first step in protecting the wellbeing of our players. It is new territory for the Premier League and its players, and it could have a contrasting impact on different clubs.
So who are the winners and losers? Top-four chasing Chelsea and Manchester United will be pleased with the way their fixtures have fallen, with a full 15 days off.
By comparison, Southampton get nine days, and have to deal with the disappointment of an FA Cup replay defeat by Tottenham.
Southampton’s FA Cup exploits mean they have a shorter break than next opponents Burnley
When Liverpool return to action – away at Norwich next week – they’ll come back watered, rested and ready to go as the runaway leaders. Whereas Crystal Palace may have mixed feelings about this break.
Last week Patrick van Aanholt, Christian Benteke and Andros Townsend returned for the first time since December after their respective injuries. After facing Everton on Saturday they then have 13 days off.
Does that come at a good time for Palace, or would Roy Hodgson have preferred the games to keep on coming now that this key trio are fully fit?
Christian Benteke has only just come back from injury – now he has nearly two weeks off
HOW MANY DAYS DOES YOUR CLUB GET OFF?
15 – Chelsea, Manchester United
14- Aston Villa, Everton, Watford, West Ham
13- Arsenal, Brighton, Crystal Palace, Liverpool *, Norwich
12- Bournemouth, Burnley, Leicester, Manchester City, Sheffield United, Wolves
11 – Newcastle
10 – Tottenham Hotspur
9 – Southampton
* (Liverpool technically only had 10 days off but their Under 23s played their FA Cup fourth-round replay against Shrewsbury Town)
Meanwhile, Brighton and Watford, who meet at the Amex Stadium, might feel like they are running on empty as we approach the closing stages of the season. The Seagulls earned an unlikely point at the London Stadium last week, coming back from two goals down – twice – to draw 3-3 with West Ham.
At the same time the Hornets threw away their own two-goal lead to lose 3-2 to 10-man Everton, and their new-manager bounce under Nigel Pearson seems to have worn off.
A win for either side would strike a significant blow to their opponents and change the mood in both camps ahead of the winter break.
The mid-season break is unprecedented in the Premier League and we will learn over the coming weeks who the winners are.
Perhaps the biggest winners of all, with Euro 2020 just months away, could be Gareth Southgate and his England team.