Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino, speaking to the press ahead of this weekend’s FA Cup match against Aston Villa, implied that his players need a rest before heading into the second half of the league season. However, Poch’s comments suggest that it’s not the players that are demanding it – it’s the Tottenham coaching staff.
Poch talked about the importance of not just physical rest, but also mental recuperation. The Premier League season is a long one, he said, and even players in their physical prime need some time off from the sport.
“I think it’s key, that [mental] area is key for me. The Premier League is not only tough because of the physical demands, which is massive, but mental too.
“I think you can see plenty of pictures of [players from] different leagues in Europe in swimming pools, on the beach and with their families, relaxing - but our players were training, playing and going to bed early at night.
“I think that’s very tough because they’re very young and they need to enjoy life. Maybe it’s different to us. We are older and we enjoy when we’re in bed but they need to enjoy life. They’re young and have a lot of energy and they believe their life stops in a few years.
“We know very well that your life maybe starts after your career, but it’s too difficult to translate that feeling. That’s why it’s sometimes not only physical rest but mental that they need and they need to relax. If not they can maybe one day explode.”
There has been discussion about implementing a winter break in the Premier League for years now. England is one of the few countries in Europe that does not give its players a few weeks off in December or January to rest and recuperate for the second half of the football season. And, as this video from Kick suggests, that lack of mid-season rest could have ramifications not only for English teams’ performances in the Champions League and Europa League, but also for English players’ performances in summer international tournaments like the Euros and World Cup.
Pochettino spent the bulk of his playing career in Ligue 1 and La Liga, two leagues that give time off to its players midway through the season, so it’s something he’s used to. To be fair, Poch stops short of actually advocating for a winter break, probably because he knows that it’s extremely unlikely to happen anytime soon due to intense pressures from TV deals and a British culture that loves its Boxing Day and New Years Day matches.
Pochettino probably will rest some of his key players for this Sunday’s match against Villa, who are currently mid-table in the Championship. It would shock no-one if key players like Harry Kane, Christian Eriksen, and Dele Alli are benched in addition to the usual fullback rotation that Spurs usually employ for these kinds of matches. Harry Winks, Josh Onomah, George-Kevin N’Koudou, and Kevin Wimmer might also get run-outs.
None of this addresses Poch’s greater point, subtly implied, that England really should have a winter break. His suggestion that his players aren’t necessarily asking for one is also interesting, though unsurprising: players want to play. Spurs are lucky this season that they are not still in the League Cup, which also has semifinal games in January, so the fixture calendar isn’t as severe. This Sunday, however, provides a good opportunity to give his key squad members a breather: it’s a match that Spurs shouldn’t have much trouble with, and with Tottenham now fully in the race for top four, they’ll need all the rests they can get.