Hopefully you made the most of the Premier League weekend that’s just passed because there won’t be any action in the top-flight now for almost a fortnight.
The next scheduled match in the competition is on Saturday February 5 when Burnley host Watford, and the next full set of fixtures isn’t until the midweek round on February 8-10.
Yep, it’s winter break time in the Premier League but this year it’s a little bit different with quite a few stars jetting off on international duty.
Here’s everything you need to know about what’s happening in the next couple of weeks and why.
The Premier League is now on its winter break with the next game not until February 5
Hold on, so there’s no Premier League football now for two weeks?
Afraid so. This is the scheduled winter break for the Premier League season and there’s no action in the top-flight now until February 5.
It was meant to be February 8 but the aforementioned Burnley vs Watford fixture, which has twice been postponed because of Covid-19 outbreaks at first Watford and then Burnley, has been set for what is the FA Cup fourth round weekend.
Both Burnley and Watford were knocked out in the third round of the competition, losing to Huddersfield and Leicester respectively, so it’s a handy time to pencil in this rearranged game.
The twice-postponed Burnley vs Watford game will be played over the FA Cup weekend
I thought the winter break had been canned?
No, although it’s understandable you may think that.
It was introduced in the 2019-20 season to allow players and managers some mid-season downtime as is the case in quite a few European leagues.
Then it took place in February with the fixture list staggered over two weekends to mean each club essentially got a fortnight off.
But then the Covid pandemic struck, causing the 2019-20 season to continue into July and the start of the 2020-21 campaign to begin a month later than usual in September.
With the whole fixture list now squeezed into a shorter season, there wasn’t time for a winter pause then but it has returned this season.
Sunday’s game between Arsenal and Burnley was one of the last ones before the pause
Surely this would be the ideal opportunity to play other games postponed because of Covid?
You’d think so. 22 Premier League games have been called off so far because teams were unable to name 13 players, plus a goalkeeper, in their matchday squad.
These rules were created because of Covid outbreaks within clubs but has become contentious because a combination of injuries, suspensions and players away at the Africa Cup of Nations has led to games being postponed.
Tottenham were left furious, for example, by Arsenal saying they were unable to put a team out for the north London derby last weekend despite having just one confirmed Covid case.
But the Premier League decided not to use the blank fortnight to get some of this remaining backlog cleared (with the exception of the Burnley vs Watford game).
The FA Cup fourth round is one factor, as is the desire to make sure teams get a breather. There are also World Cup qualifiers being played in South America which affects a good few teams and the Premier League really doesn’t need another row over player availability.
There are South American World Cup qualifiers this week with Brazil and Argentina in action
When’s the FA Cup?
The fourth round weekend is February 4-6 and 14 Premier League clubs remain in the competition.
Typically, this round would be played in late January but there was little point scheduling a winter break and then have the leading clubs play in the Cup.
It does explain why the Premier League will return with a midweek round.
Manchester United are among 14 top-flight sides in the FA Cup fourth round after they knocked out Aston Villa in the third round
What about these internationals you speak of?
Just to add a further layer of complexity to the situation, the coming days see World Cup qualifying matches in South America, North America and Asia.
With a good few players still on international duty at the Africa Cup of Nations, such as Liverpool duo Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, plenty will be occupied during the next fortnight.
11 Premier League players have been called up to the Brazil squad for their qualifiers against Ecuador and Paraguay, while four are in the Argentina squad for their matches against Chile and Colombia.
So it’s far from a break for the considerable number of players who will be flying off long-haul to represent their countries in the next few days.
Despite all the other leading European leagues also pausing, there are no UEFA nations in international action this month with the next games in March.
Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah is still on international duty with Egypt at the Africa Cup of Nations
So what’s everyone else up to?
Most Premier League managers will give their players a few days off, while some teams are heading off on training camps.
It’s a decent enough window to fit in a holiday and also return for some training sessions prior to the resumption.
Arsenal are heading to Dubai for a warm weather training camp to aid their push to finish in the top four, while Newcastle United have flown to Saudi Arabia to train after their takeover by the country’s Public Investment Fund.
Newcastle United’s owners and manager Eddie Howe arrive in Saudia Arabia on Monday
The Newcastle players will spend some time in Saudi Arabia for a warm weather training camp
Premier League leaders Manchester City were set to head off to Abu Dhabi but those plans have been abandoned following a Covid outbreak and Pep Guardiola has given his players a week off instead.
Various players were pictured flying off on holiday after Saturday’s games with Manchester United stars Harry Maguire, Diogo Dalot and Marcus Rashford going to Dubai.
Jack Grealish and John McGinn, former Aston Villa team-mates, are on holiday in Dubai
Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger gives the thumbs up as he heads to Sierra Leone
Manchester City star Kevin De Bruyne was already on the beack with his family
Aston Villa duo Tyrone Mings and John McGinn were also seen at Manchester Airport on Saturday night also heading to the UAE.
Some managers will be switching off as well with Brentford boss Thomas Frank taking a skiing holiday in Switzerland.
Brentford manager Thomas Frank is heading off on a skiing holiday to Switzerland this week
Please tell me there’s still some football to watch!
Yes, don’t panic. The EFL is continuing at full pelt with midweek matches in all three divisions and then the Championship taking centre stage at the weekend. The Scottish Premiership is also carrying on.
The AFCON is ongoing and into the knockout stages, while the South American qualifiers are on Thursday and Tuesday next week.
The Championship continues apace as the Premier League stops with Fulham leading the way
What is your club up to?
Arsenal – Planning to travel to Dubai for a warm weather training camp as they did in February 2020. They have pencilled in a friendly when they return to England.
Aston Villa – Steven Gerrard has talked about ‘yellow days’ on the training ground which is akin to a mini pre-season so it doesn’t sound like there will be too much rest of Villa’s players. Also have plans for a behind-closed-doors friendly.
Brentford – Thomas Frank has granted his squad a whole week off and they will be allowed to go abroad on holiday. Frank himself is going skiing in Switzerland with his family.
Brighton – Staying at home for training as normal.
Burnley – Remaining at home on the training ground but hoping to schedule at least one friendly.
Chelsea – A week off for most of the players given Thomas Tuchel’s concerns about fatigue. Chelsea are off to the FIFA Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi soon so no plans to jet off for a training camp.
Crystal Palace – The players have been given a few days rest before returning for training as normal.
Everton – Likely to get an extra day off or two but with Duncan Ferguson only just taking over and a new manager potentially coming in, time on the training ground will be appreciated.
Leeds – Marcelo Bielsa spoke of a ‘hugh dosage of rest’ so that suggests they will be permitted a decent chunk of time off.
Leicester – Also plans to allow the players to have a few days to put their feet up unless they’re returning from injury and need fitness work.
Liverpool – No travel plans and time off this week ahead of a busy end to the season.
Manchester City – A warm weather training camp in Abu Dhabi was cancelled but Pep Guardiola has given his squad a week off. A good few will no doubt be heading abroad on holiday.
Manchester United – A trip to Dubai was considered but Covid worries put paid to this. United’s players will get five days off this week and return to training at the weekend. Harry Maguire, Diogo Dalot and Marcus Rashford among those going off on holiday.
Newcastle – Arrived in Saudi Arabia for a warm weather training camp on Monday and they may play a friendly match while out there. Eddie Howe said he didn’t know of any plans to meet Newcastle’s new owners while over there.
Norwich – No travel plans but there will be some days off for the players ahead of their big survival push.
Southampton – Manager Ralph Hasenhuttl will likely return home to Austria for a few days and his players will be granted some days off too.
Tottenham – Antonio Conte will give his players a few days off despite Sunday’s defeat at Chelsea before a return to training next week ahead of the FA Cup.
Watford – A short break but the focus will be on training although it remains to be seen how much longer Claudio Ranieri is in a job.
West Ham – David Moyes said: ‘I’ll give the players time off. If ever there was a group of players who deserve it, it’s this group.’
Wolves – The club hoped to go to Marbella again for a warm weather camp but decided against it with Bruno Lage giving his players time off to spend with family.