For the players who actually contest it, the English Premier Leagues famous festive period is anything but.
Unlike other top European leagues, which shut down for a two-week winter break around the holidays, the Premier League kicks things into high gear to pump content into the television sets of captive audiences around the globe. And while it makes for riveting viewing for fans and rakes in money for advertisers and broadcasters, it takes a toll on the players who are actually out on the pitch.
Trent Alexander-Arnolds Liverpool, for instance, will play 13 matches in all competitions over a 48-day stretch that began on November 22 and ends on January 8 thats one every 3.7 days, with only one weeklong break and a handful of fixtures on just three days rest. Add in the fact that injuries are already up by more than 20% thanks to a shorter-than-usual preseason following delays to last season incurred by the coronavirus, and youve got the perfect recipe for muscle strains, overuse injuries, careless tackles and a generally leggy and substandard level of play.
We caught up with the England right back and reigning Premier League Young Play of the Year to chat about the mental and physical gauntlet that hes currently enduring, how he recovers on short rest, and whether theres anything the League can do to provide clubs with a little more festive relief in the future.
InsideHook: Youre currently about halfway through the vaunted Festive Period. How does the clubs training regimen during this month compare to the rest of the season?
Trent Alexander-Arnold: With the increase in games around the Christmas period, a lot of the training is focused on strategy, tactics, recovery and maintenance.With that said, consistency is key, so the sessions do not change dramatically and lots of the drills are very familiar.Its about maintaining peak fitness, whilst also ensuring we are mentally prepared for each team we face.
Are there fewer training sessions? Does the intensity of training change in any significant way?
We are still in at the Club every day, so there are not less sessions, but yes, there is less of a focus on fitness, power and strength training and more of a focus on tactics and recovery.Whilst the intensity might be less physically, we spend a lot of time analyzing our opposition and are very precise as to the best approach to break a particular team down. The manager is very detailed when it comes to this!!
Beyond the sheer number of fixtures, what are the biggest difficulties of getting through this period?
The biggest challenge is finding a balance between the physical and mental preparation involved with so many games. I am careful not to push myself too much physically, and give myself enough time to fully rest and recover and get myself in the right mindset before a game.
What does your recovery routine look like both after games and on a daily basis? I know that you recently entered into a partnership with Therabody, a company whose percussive therapy instruments have been written about at length by our fitness editor.
Effective training and recovery is key to playing at the highest level. Whether Im training or about to play a match, I use a Theragun PRO to help activate and warm-up my muscles, particularly any that are tight or sore. After training and matches I also rotate using ice baths, cryotherapy and massage, as well as using my Theragun over my entire body when I get home to fully recover and keep me energized for whatever Ive got the next day.
Alexander-Arnold says he uses the Theragun both before and after games and training sessions
What are your thoughts on the proposed league-wide change from to three to five subs in each match? Do players generally feel as strongly as some managers including, notably, yours that it should change?
I know its a hot topic of conversation at the moment, but honestly I dont really think about it. Id play every minute of every game if I could, but its up to the manager to decide who should play and when to get the best out of the squad.If that involved more subs to keep players fresher, then Id be supportive of that, but really its up to the manager and the medical team, as they know best.
Does your manager ever change the tactics during this period to account for the condition of the players?
No, not really.We try to play our own game and tweak things as needed for specific opposition.Obviously we have had some injured this season, so some players have had to play out of position, but that was more out of necessity than anything I think.
Are you ever relieved during this period when youre not selected, since it means more rest?
Short answer, no. Playing for Liverpool has been a life-long dream for me. I love it, and dont ever not want to be involved. Id play every minute of every game if the manager would allow me to. We are also fortunate to have access to a great medical team who work round the clock to keep us as fresh as possible on and off of the pitch. Rest and recovery cannot be underestimated.It is so important, especially at this time of year.
Are there certain clubs that you look forward to playing during this period, because you knows the intensity will be lower? Similarly, are there teams you dont look forward to playing?
Ha! I wish.There is no such thing as a low intensity match in the Premier League! I know it might sound cheesy, but honestly Im just happy to pull on a Liverpool shirt whoever we are playing.Every match is important, especially when we are competing to win the League.Of course there are certain matches that receive increased attention from the media, whether that be the Merseyside Derby, or our rivalry with Manchester United, but when it comes to intensity, the same effort goes into every match.As I said, no such thing as an easy game in the Premier League.
And finally, are you looking forward to any plans over the holidays away from the pitch?
Well we dont get much time away from the pitch, but I am looking forward to relaxing and spending time with family.I might also get back into playing chess.It helps me relax.
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