Seville: Gareth Southgate has hit out at the Premier League for putting clubs in an “impossible situation” by having to field players without enough rest after the World Cup.
The England manager questioned why the fixtures started on Aug 10 — just 27 days after his side’s third place play-off against Belgium and joked that maybe it was because the Premier League was not expecting them to do so well.
Ahead of their Uefa Nations League tie against Spain, Southgate suggested the Premier League should do more to help England and English clubs in the Champions League by moving fixtures — as -happens around the rest of Europe — and with players suffering after their exertions in Russia.
“I think it’s psychological freshness, rather than physical,” Southgate said when asked why some players had started this season slowly. “Everyone adapts their training load appropriately. But when you see the league, there are a lot of teams who haven’t started yet at the level when they are at their maximum. A lot of injuries across certainly our league, I don’t know about the rest of Europe.
“I don’t really understand why our league started so early, so it’s a really difficult situation for the clubs. Some of the clubs couldn’t field a team without ... look at Tottenham, who had so many players in the semi-finals of the World Cup. They had to put players straight into matches on the back of very little pre-season. It was an impossible situation for the coaches, really.”
Spurs’ England contingent at the World Cup was five and they had three more players in the Belgium squad and one with France. The Premier League had more players (39 out of a total of 91) with England, Belgium, Croatia and France — the semi-finalists — than any other league in the world and yet started earlier than all of them apart from France, where Ligue 1 also began on Aug 10.
La Liga in Spain started on Aug 17, while Italy returned to Serie A action on Aug 18. The German Bundesliga did not start until Aug 24.
Despite his frustration, Southgate has not raised the issue with either the Football Association or the Premier League. “I hadn’t looked into when the season started until we got back from the tournament,” he said.
“Maybe, they [the Premier League] were expecting us to be back by the end of June. I assumed the rest of the world were going to be there until the middle of July.
“It’s always easy to make a comment like that and not know the complex scenario the decision-makers had to go to, because that happens to me quite a lot. I think everybody knew when the final was going to be and the semi-final and that they would be away for a period of time.
“It’s a bit like our clubs in the Champions League, some of the rest of the leagues in Europe help them and adjust the fixture list and I’m sure our clubs would appreciate that because in the end they’re representing English football and we want them all to do well.”
It was a theme endorsed by Croatian defender Dejan Lovren, who played in the World Cup final, and also faced England in last Friday’s Nations League goalless draw.
Lovren was out of the Liverpool team at the start of this season, as he recovered from Russia, and only -recently made his first league start.
He pointed to Liverpool teammate Mohamed Salah, who has left the Egypt squad with a muscle injury, and his Croatia colleague Luka Modric, as evidence that the top players were struggling to find their best form after the World Cup.
John Stones, suspended for the Spain game after being booked against Croatia, has flown back to England while Jordan Henderson, who is also ineligible after collecting a second caution in two games, has remained because his family have flown out to Seville. Henderson also stayed to attend an England leadership team meeting.
— The Telegraph Group Limited, London 2018