The interruption to our national game has come as quite a shock to us all, but we’re gradually becoming used to the new reality, and improving our powers of patience while we wait for resumption.
In the meantime, here at SBOTOP, we’ve been pondering which players and which teams have been affected the most.
Just as in the case of an international break, some Premier League teams are frustrated by the threat to their momentum, while others want to take a pause and re-calibrate. Manchester United, with the arrival of Bruno Fernandes and the return to fitness of Scott McTominay, had started to look like a genuine top four contender, beating Manchester City in the recent derby.
And then take Burnley, unbeaten in seven matches and joining the charge towards to Europa League places. Sean Dyche’s team weren’t ready for a break.
Training in isolation
The moment Arsenal players went into self-isolation, earlier in the month, we knew what was coming. The Gunners’ game with Manchester City was called off after it was revealed that several Arsenal players had come into contact with infected Olympiacos owner Evangelos Marinakis and, shortly after, head coach Mikel Arteta confirmed he had a positive COVID-19 test.
Young Chelsea wide-man Callum Hudson-Odoi was the first Premier League player to contract the virus and, at that point, the Premier League along with all the other major leagues was put on hold.
And that presented a huge challenge for players, coaches and physios, as the stars would have to stick to their usual physical and nutritional regimes but without the support of club staff and team-mates. Some Premier League players have home gyms, and even swimming pools, and runaway league leaders Liverpool have provided each player with an individual training plan, to ensure they are ready for the resumption when it comes.
Arsenal physio Gary Lewin says training in isolation will be a challenge, though the top players have an advantage: “It will be easier for Premier League players as many have gym equipment at home,” he says. “You could import treadmills, watt bikes or cross trainers and water work could be done, although not in a public pool.
“The other logistical issue around resumption is players who then test positive. As it stands, the whole squad would self-isolate for a week, meaning more cancelled fixtures.”
At the beginning of this week, Burnley and Sheffield United were bucking the trend by continuing normal training while all other clubs had already sent their players home. The latest government instructions of lock-down will see the end of these two hardy northern clubs carrying on through the chaos.
A handy break for some
These are strange times indeed but plenty of good is coming out of the current world situation, with communities coming together in a common cause.
And there are a few players and clubs who could easily benefit from the break. The postponement of Euro 2020 has given some players a chance to recover from injury. Over in Spain Barca could expect Luis Suarez to return when La Liga resumes, and there is a similar gift for Spurs, in that Harry Kane is nearing a return to full training, and could be ready to re-ignite Tottenham’s dwindling top-four challenge.
The Spurs skipper’s latest injury was the big Premier League 2020 news at the turn of the year and results at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium took a turn for the worse, but the Whites are still in the hunt.
And for every Manchester United or Burnley, who wanted to keep their momentum moving, there is a team which welcomed the hiatus, and one or two which might even hope we just forget about this season and move on to next. That was the suggestion of West Ham vice-chair Karren Brady, and it would mean all their Christmases had come at once for Norwich City, rooted to the bottom of the Premier League table, while Liverpool fans would be in utter despair.
On the other hand, if the season was ended now with all teams allocated their current place, Jurgen Klopp’s side would be crowned champions, while the misery would be felt by Bournemouth fans and players who would be relegated on goal difference. Pundits believe the Cherries take the drop, but one win would change all that, with West Ham and Watford on the same points and Brighton unable to buy a victory.
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