Borussia Dortmund players Jadon Sancho and Manuel Akanji have been fined undisclosed sums for violating the Bundesliga hygiene rules, with England winger England winger Sancho branding the decision an “absolute joke”.
It’s here again. The football fan’s dream and the manager’s nightmare – the hectic end of year schedule in English football.
It’s two weeks where all the good work a club has achieved up to this point can be undone or a nightmare start to the campaign can be overcome.
While the rest of European football will go into holiday mode over the coming days, for any where between one and four weeks, the Premier League is about to head into its most hectic schedule of the season.
The importance of this period shouldn’t be understated as the effect on players’ bodies it brings, means a poor run of form over the next two weeks can see your campaign start to breakdown.
And the cost of playing so many games, so frequently is no myth.
The season before the 2010 World Cup, the Socceroos coaching staff analysed the fitness and health of all potential players based in Europe.
When comparing the data from before Christmas with those taken a few months later, there was a significant drop off in the physical conditioning of those playing in England compared to their continental counterparts.
So with the Premier League about to reach the halfway mark of the season, here are five clubs I feel are most in need of some festive cheer.
Despite an inconsistent first four months of the season, which was capped off by last week’s League Cup loss to fourth division Bradford City, the Gunners are only two points off fourth placed Tottenham.
With their most challenging fixtures over the festive season coming at home (West Ham and Newcastle), the stage is set for Arsene Wenger’s charges to turn their campaign around.
United’s motivations heading into this period are quite different to most of the other teams on this list.
Sitting six points clear at the top of the standings after a sensational start to the season that included a derby win against Manchester City, United need a positive run through the end of the year to ensure their good work is kept in place.
A lead of six points may be significant, but it could easily disappear with a couple slip-ups against awkward opponents such as Swansea and West Brom.
Queen’s Park Rangers
Rangers’ 16 game winless start to the season was finally broken against Fulham on Saturday. While I don’t believe significant amounts need to be spent on this squad (one or two adjustments would help though) new manager Harry Redknapp has said the team needs to get some wins before January if he’ll be allowed to spend in the winter transfer window.
So it’s a case of now or never at Loftus Road.
Arsenal, Manchester United, Everton – a challenging period for Newcastle isn’t set to let up over the next two weeks.
The problem though is if things don’t change fast, the discontent seeping into St James’ Park will have the potential to hurt as much as a high interest loan from shirt sponsor Wonga.
The Canaries fall into a similar basket as Manchester United – a sensational run of form that could lose a lot of its worth if results falter over Christmas.
Norwich are in seventh place thanks to a 10-game undefeated run, but back to back games against Chelsea and Manchester City beckon before the year is out.