Will the Bundesliga Winter Break Benefit Germany at Euro 2016?
The final Bundesliga matches of 2015 were played on December 20th, but the German top-flight league won’t reconvene until Friday, January 22nd. That match, between Bayern Munich and Hamburger SV, will put an end to the Bundesliga’s lengthy winter break—a rest period that is considerably longer than that of any other major European football league. The English Premier League hardly got any breaks at all, playing hard throughout the holidays to earn a week and a half’s rest at the beginning of January. The Spanish La Liga, meanwhile, enjoyed a brief rest leading up to Christmas but resumed in time to play a round of matches in the final days of 2015.
For soccer fans, the Bundesliga break isn’t ideal. Going a whole month without seeing your favorite team play—at a time of year when every other league is active—is a serious exercise in patience. For the players, though, there is a huge benefit to playing in the Bundesliga and getting the month-long break in the winter. The benefits of the Bundesliga winter break are so substantial, in fact, that it’s possible they could give the German national football team a leg up on the competition at the European Championship later this year.
In 2012, the BBC published an article titled “Do Germany’s Players Have an Advantage over England?” The piece addressed the less-is-more structure of German football, from the 18-team composition of the Bundesliga to the five-week winter break all the way to the absence of a league cup. The argument was that Germany’s players—since they play less soccer domestically than many other leagues—were going to international tournaments fresher than the competition. That freshness was in turn credited with Germany’s consistency in winning titles at the World Cup, the European Championship, and other international competitions. In contrast, the article tagged England as “the most tired nation at tournaments,” and linked that fatigue to England’s lack of recent national team trophies.
Looking at the differences between the Premier League’s winter schedule and the Bundesliga’s winter schedule, it’s easy to see how the German national team might have an advantage going into Euro 2016. English football fans are hoping that 2016 could finally be the year that the Three Lions win a title again—hopes bolstered by England’s perfect 10-win record in the European Championship qualifiers. England have never won the European Championship before.
An Injury Problem
So what’s stopping England from winning Euro 2016? Some soccer pundits might point to the team’s dismal performance at the 2014 World Cup, where they exited the group stage without a single win. Germany, in contrast, went all the way to the finals and won their fourth World Cup title.
However, what really might put a pin in England’s chances at a European Championship title is more mundane: injury. Thanks in part to the Premier League’s demanding and congested play schedule, many of England’s top football clubs are dealing with player shortages thanks to injury. Since the Premier League’s clubs are made up predominantly of English players, those injuries could, in turn, lead to problems for the English national team.
For example, Liverpool have recently had to sideline Jordan Henderson, James Milner, Daniel Sturridge, and Danny Ings—all players who have been called up for the English national soccer squad in the past year. Arsenal have had their own injury problems, with Danny Welbeck, Theo Walcott, and Jack Wilshere all spending a fair amount of time on the disabled list while Manchester United have had to sideline Luke Shaw and Jesse Lingard. These are just the recent injuries within three major clubs.
In contrast, Germany’s players are largely healthy. In their most recent game (with Hannover 96), Bayern Munich didn’t have to sideline any players for medical reasons. Neither did Hannover. Such is not an unusual occurrence in Bundesliga matches, a sharp contrast to the Premier League, where the sidelined lists are often five to seven players deep—especially at this time of year.
Will the wearers of the Germany Euro 2016 jersey best England in France this summer, simply by virtue of having a healthier and more well-rested squad? And if that’s the case, should the Premier League adjust its structure in the future to reduce player fatigue and injury? Share your thoughts on one of Soccer Box’s social media pages, including Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.