RARELY does anyone connected with Sheffield Wednesday receive a mention at ViewFromTheJohnStreet. But credit where credit is due and Arsene Wenger take note.
Along with a number of his rivals, notably Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, Tottenham’s Mauricio Potchettino and Pep Guardiola at Manchester City, the Gunners manager has been at the forefront of bleating about the congested Christmas fixture schedule.
"We just have to shut up and cope with it," said Wenger this week which is exactly what he didn't do after Arsenal came from 3-0 down at Bournemouth to draw 3-3. You would have thought after 20 years in charge of the Gunners by now he’d have got used to it.
Wednesday’s Portuguese manager Carlos Carvalhal has also joined the chorus of boos after his team dropped four points inside three days. “It’s very difficult for me and all the coaches in the world,” he said rather grandly. “I think the players need a minimum of 72 hours [rest] between the games.”
From the perspective of a sports scientist that is most probably true but how boring football would be if played under laboratory conditions. Owls midfield man Bannan was spot on when he countered: “I think if you can't play two games in three days you shouldn't really be playing football.”
Wenger, Guardiola, Carvalhal and Co are right in the sense that the crowded Christmas schedule, a hallmark of British football, makes their jobs harder and yes, can alter the balance of a level playing field. The intervention of live TV cameras pandering to armchair fans has added to the difficulties. Give the broadcasters an inch and they will eventually demand a mile.
But many foreign managers miss the point. Christmas mayhem is part of the traditional challenge which draws crowds and takes players and managers out of their comfort zone. It appears many would prefer sitting on their sofas, or enjoying an extended holiday break in warmer climes. Either that or remain in an antiseptic environment of statistics and data where theory always triumphs. Well, that's the theory.
Doing the continental is one wish Santa won't be delivering anytime soon. It may be overkill but the draft schedule for next season’s festive fare is six matches in 17 days — December 16, 20, 23, 26, 30 and January 1.
One Italian coach who has just experienced an English Christmas for the first time, Antonio Conte, appears to have no problem with it. Admittedly his Chelsea team, the Premier League leaders, have had an easier time than some – three matches in 10 days. Although it didn't demonstrate any benefit as Tottenham [third match in eight days] ended The Blues all-time record attempt of clinching 14 successive top flight wins in a season. A 2-0 defeat at White Hart Lane against a Spurs team showing no signs of holiday fatigue saw to that.
“I think they are angry for our position not for the fixtures,” said Conte of his rivals. “It’s normal, this also happens in Italy. It’s always because you are top. I didn’t do the fixtures.”
Conte added: “Before the Christmas period we played three games in six days against West Brom, Sunderland and Crystal Palace. In these circumstances we showed good physical condition. I prefer it when there are many games in a few days because we worked hard for this.”
Football in this country has many faults. But excitement isn’t one of them and the Christmas schedule is a highlight for most supporters. It makes you wonder why so many managers from abroad with their 'superior' know-how, a love of warmer climates and the good life are queuing up for jobs in a chilly, wet and technically challenged UK? Ah yes, ka-ching. But still they try to bite the hand that feeds them.