The Premier League is in the midst of an injury NIGHTMARE with 114 stars ruled out… after yet another international ‘break’ in a jam-packed schedule – and with Covid cases still a major issue – it’s no surprise Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola are raging
- The international break has been controversial among Premier League coaches
- Top bosses have bemoaned the huge fixture pile up in club competitions
- And players have picked up injuries during the three international breaks
- Sportsmail looks at why more players are getting injured this unusual season
‘I’m never expecting good things, I’m only expecting negative things,’ Jose Mourinho said of the international break that has seen top flight bosses united in calling into question the necessity of adding more minutes into the legs of their players.
And the subsequent fallout has proven the Spurs boss correct as a series of players have been mired with fresh injuries, piling more misery on Premier League coaches as they look to manage their squads in this unusual season.
Injuries have been put under the spotlight this campaign, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer blasting the ‘joke’ fixture schedule, while Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp have demanded the five substitutes rule be brought back so as to ease the burden on their respective squads.
So what is behind the increase in injuries this season? What have the managers had to say about it? And who are the biggest losers from this triple-header international break?
Jose Mourinho said international breaks only bring ‘negative things’ amid injury concerns
Injuries have been a talking point with an increase in players sidelined in the top flight
WHY ARE MORE PLAYERS GETTING INJURED?
According to specialist Premier League injury database Premier Injuries, there have been a total of 103 muscle-related injuries across the opening eight weeks of the top flight this season.
That total represents a 16 per cent increase on the first eight games of the last campaign.
The lack of pre-season has been noted as a key contributing factor to the rise in injuries among Premier League stars this season.
Ordinarily, there is a 12-week break between the end of the previous campaign and the start of the new one.
This season has seen a 16 per cent increase in muscle injuries picked up by top flight players
This is due in part to a lack of pre-season, as well as a heavy congestion of fixtures due to Covid
However, the rushed conclusion of the 2019-20 campaign has seen a short turnaround of just seven weeks for the players, while clubs involved in European competitions – such as Man United, Man City, Wolves and Chelsea – had an even shorter break.
Moreover, due to the late conclusion to the previous campaign, 2020-21 will be five weeks shorter, so there will be more midweek fixtures as a result, while games are spread over the weekend from Friday to Monday for broadcasting reasons.
We have also seen clubs playing in Europe in back-to-back weeks so they can make up time this season.
While those sides playing in the Champions League and Europa League are given five substitutes to mitigate this, the short turnaround between games hinders players’ recovery and understandably leads to more injuries.
Clubs playing in Europe face a very short turnaround and limited recovery time for star players
WHAT HAVE THE MANAGERS HAD TO SAY?
Unsurprisingly, Premier League bosses have been left unimpressed by the concerning pile up of injuries this season.
Following their sides’ 1-1 draw before the break, Klopp and Guardiola united in demanding that five substitutes be re-introduced in the top flight.
‘We didn’t speak about the result. We spoke about how we need to fight again and again for five substitutions,’ Guardiola said after the game.
‘Look, an international England player, Trent Alexander-Arnold, he’s injured.
‘All around the world, there are five substitutions. But here we believe we are more special people and [use] just three players. We don’t protect the players.
Jurgen Klopp (L) and Pep Guardiola (R) have called for the re-introduction of five substitutes
Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo, however, says clubs must rotate their squads better
‘That’s why it’s a disaster with this calendar. I will demand, if the people allow my voice, to come back with five substitutions.’
However, the debate surrounding five substitutes has not provided a unanimous consensus among managers.
Premier League chief Richard Masters last week said a return to five subs is unlikely, while Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo told his rivals to manage their squads better.
‘I don’t see why we must have five substitutes. I don’t agree. I prefer three, and I made my opinion clear on that,’ he said earlier this month.
‘Five happened because of the pandemic and the lack of preparations and being in lockdown for three months. After the player is able to achieve fitness levels that he is able to endure for 90 minutes, three substitutes is what makes sense.
Manchester Utd boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (L) has blasted his side’s ‘joke’ fixture schedule
‘If others think differently I respect that, but then don’t ask for five substitutes, make your decisions before and rotate the players so you can rest them.’
United boss Solskjaer blasted football chiefs, insisting that his team have been ‘set up to fail’ by quick turnarounds from midweek games after the Red Devils were made to play Everton at Saturday lunchtime, having played in Turkey the previous Wednesday night.
‘They set up the boys to fail,’ said Solskjaer after the 3-1 win. ‘We have got Luke Shaw injured because we have played loads of games this season already.
‘It is an absolute shambles and I cannot praise the boys enough for the character they have shown. That is all I want to talk about. Those boys deserve better than being thrown out here to fail today. The authorities set us up to fail.’
WHAT ABOUT THE INTERNATIONAL BREAK?
Given that managers are already discontent with the sheer volume of games demanded of their sides in club competitions, the prospect of triple-header international breaks is the sort of thing that will have likely kept Klopp and Guardiola up at night.
Additional international fixtures have had to be squeezed in in order to make up for games lost due to the pandemic, with a legion of Premier League stars playing three games in a two-week window for their countries.
European nations have had to juggle UEFA Nations League games with friendlies, the latter’s necessity having been questioned by managers, notably Mourinho, who stressed that his players’ recovery schedule is disrupted while they are away.
Spurs boss Mourinho expressed concern over the disruption of his players’ recovery schedule
‘For some of the players the second day of recovery is very important and for some national teams the second day is not a day of recovery but a day of work which goes against the biological laws that we work under,’ the Spurs boss said.
‘I thought with Nations Cup [Nations League] no more friendly matches but there are still friendlies to play which I don’t understand.
‘To win international qualification matches or even the Nations Cup, which is a secondary competition, I will never be critical of any manager that wants to play with their best players.
‘But the friendly matches they have to think about the players, make a difference between the players who play Saturday and Sunday.
‘We play Thursday and Sunday. If you ask if I expect my players to be rested in friendly matches, I’m not expecting but I’d love [it].’
Managers have also raised concerns regarding coronavirus safety for players travelling overseas and the testing protocols that could limit their training time once they return.
‘We are concerned, and it’s not only about Wolves,’ said Nuno. ‘I think all the managers are concerned about it and the risks that are involved.
Playing abroad has also seen coronavirus issues arise, with Mohamed Salah testing positive
The Reds star tested positive for the virus while away with Egypt, and was seen at a wedding
‘If a player returns on Tuesday or Wednesday and has to wait for the Premier League testing to start, what is he going to do in the meantime? At the moment we are waiting more than 24 hours for the results of the tests.’
And those concerns have been justified, with a number of players hit by coronavirus while away with their countries.
The most high profile, of course, is Mohamed Salah after the Liverpool star tested positive while away with Egypt. The attacker was seen at his brother’s wedding with little social distancing or very few face masks.
Crystal Palace captain Luka Milivojevic tested positive with Serbia, meaning he was sidelined for the Scotland play-off game, while West Ham star Andriy Yarmolenko tested positive with Ukraine.
There was also concern in north London when Spurs star Matt Doherty, who tested positive, hugged club team-mate Gareth Bale while on international duty with Ireland. It’s fair to say Mourinho was not best pleased with the situation unfolding with his players while they were away.
There was concern after Gareth Bale (L) hugged Covid-positive team-mate Matt Doherty (R)
Premier League stars Andriy Yarmolenko (L) and Luka Milivojevic (R) have also tested positive
In a sarcastic rant on Instagram, Mourinho wrote alongside a picture of himself working out: ‘Amazing week of football. Great emotions in the national team matches, superb friendlies and total safety.
‘Covid test results after matches been played, randomers running on the pitch while team sessions are taking place and much more.
‘After another training session with only 6 players, it is now time to take care of myself.’
Wolves skipper Conor Coady has had to self isolate after coming into contact with someone who was Covid-positive, putting his run of 119 consecutive league appearances at risk.
Jose Mourinho launched a sarcastic rant on Instagram about the international break – as he posted a picture of him working out at Tottenham’s training ground
WHICH CLUBS HAVE SUFFERED MOST THIS INTERNATIONAL BREAK?
There can be no doubt that Liverpool are the biggest losers from the most recent international break.
The Premier League champions’ loss of Virgil van Dijk and Trent Alexander-Arnold have been further compounded by a serious long term knee injury to Joe Gomez, while Reds captain Jordan Henderson was forced off against Belgium with a thigh issue.
There can be no doubt that Liverpool are the biggest losers from this international window
Andy Robertson, Jordan Henderson and Joe Gomez have all picked up injuries while away
Manchester City have also been rocked by injuries to Nathan Ake, who hobbled off with a hamstring injury in the first five minutes of a friendly between Holland and Spain, while Raheem Sterling has picked up a ‘small injury’ with England.
Chelsea fans have been left concerned after Ben Chilwell seemed to pick up a back injury against Belgium, while Everton captain Seamus Coleman withdrew from the Ireland squad through a recurrence of a previous injury in a training session.
Both Leicester and Sheffield United have been hit by concussion concerns, with Kasper Schmeichel and John Egan picking up worrying knocks while with their countries.
Man City have suffered, too, with Nathan Ake picking up a hamstring injury with Holland
There are few clubs that have not been affected by injuries while their stars have been away
INJURIES LIST: CLUB BY CLUB (*Source = Premier Injuries)
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