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Did we really need a winter break?

Update: February, 27/2020 - 08:18

KLOPP OUT: Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has been among the most vocal of coaches calling for a winter break. AFP Photo

 

Paul Kennedy

For as old as time itself, footballers and managers have been complaining to anyone who would listen how a winter break was essential in the English Premier League.

Finally this season officials gave in and granted the request, albeit with the break split over two weeks for different teams.

Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp wasn’t just one of the loudest voices shouting for some time off, but he also refused to play any of the first team squad against lower-league Shrewsbury Town in an FA Cup replay. He didn’t even bother going to the game himself.

But despite Liverpool being Premier League champions in all but name, it seems the winter break hasn’t really been that helpful to the European champions.

In the first match back, the Reds struggled away at bottom of the table Norwich and needed a late Sadio Mane goal to seal the deal.

Then away from home in the Champions League they lost by a single goal to nil against Athletico Madrid, and had to come from behind to beat lowly West Ham at home in a match they uncharacteristically conceded not just one goal, but two.

In all three matches Liverpool looked sloppy, out-of-sorts and tired. Like a team that quite frankly, needed a break.

Now you could argue, winning when you are not at your best is the sign of a very good team, and aside from the Champions League hiccup, Liverpool are still miles ahead of anyone in the title race and highly unlikely to be caught.

But the break, which saw the first teamers head away to sunnier climes (except for Andy Robertson who went home to Scotland fearing he might get sun burnt), seems to have rocked Liverpool’s very steady ship.

The momentum they possessed has taken a slight dent and while I have no doubt it will have zero effect on the title itself, it does beg the question is a winter break really that necessary?

I accept it does work elsewhere in Europe and this is the first time it has been tried in England, but I really don’t see what was actually gained from it.

Plenty of players no doubt added an extra few thousand followers on their Instagram pages as they posted pictures from sun-kissed beaches (except Andy Robertson), and if you believe what you read in the newspapers, Arsenal’s Matteo Guendouzi got into a spot of bother with Mikel Arteta after a night out in Dubai.

Maybe in a bid to ease fatigue instead of a winter break, the powers that be should be looking at other options, first and foremost being the cup competitions.

It has been said that one solution may be to make all FA Cup games a one-off. In other words if a team draws then finish the match there and then with a penalty shoot-out instead the need for a replay.

You could even stretch this so when a Premier League draws a team from a lower division, let the minnows decide the venue, home or away.

Also would it be that much of a big deal to start the season a week early? Then work the fixtures so that each week throughout the campaign two teams get a break.

These are all solutions that need to be made by people well and truly above my pay grade, but as Liverpool are finding out, a winter break is not always that good a thing.

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