Are you missing football already? It’s been less than a week since the final whistle blew on the 2021-22 European season with the last of the UEFA Nations League fixtures, but the new campaign is coming around quicker than you think.
Some Premier League clubs are already preparing to return to preseason training at the beginning of next week, while Arsenal are due to make an early start to the programme of summer friendlies by playing Nurnberg on July 8. Manchester United and Liverpool will then kickstart their own schedule for the new season by facing off in Bangkok four days later.
There will, of course, be extended summer breaks for those players who finally downed tools following international duty last week, but it won’t be long enough to truly recharge tired minds and bodies.
The Premier League, Bundesliga and Ligue 1 all get their season underway on the first weekend of August, with LaLiga and Serie A starting a week later, so the biggest stars know they will have to be back on the training ground before mid-July to have any realistic hope of being fully fit and ready for the new campaign.
But for anyone who is struggling from withdrawal symptoms due to the absence of top-level football right now, it may be worth taking advantage of the brief shutdown. Enjoy the silence while it lasts because the 2022-23 season is going to feel like a sprint and a marathon combined because of the 2022 World Cup being staged in Qatar between Nov. 21 and Dec. 18.
And as usual, it is those players performing in the Premier League who will have to cope with the toughest and most demanding schedule in the months ahead.
Manchester City and Liverpool, whose squads are stacked with players who will be in Qatar later this year, are both facing up to a hectic run of games in the opening months of the season.
When champions City — who start their summer friendlies against Club America in Houston on July 20 — and FA Cup winners Liverpool meet in the Community Shield at Leicester’s King Power Stadium on July 30, it will be the start of a run of 24 games for Pep Guardiola’s team through to the Premier League clash with Brentford on Nov. 12, just nine days before the World Cup begins.
Liverpool are also scheduled to play 24 games in the same period, with both clubs needing to cram in all six Champions League group stage fixtures, and a Carabao Cup tie, before the start of Qatar 2022.
Matchday 1 in the Champions League is scheduled for Sept. 6-7, with Matchday 6 planned for Nov. 1-2. There is also an international break in the diary for late September.
And just to turn the screw even tighter on the Premier League teams in European competition, they will enter the Carabao Cup at the third round stage on Nov. 9. With all the focus understandably falling on the World Cup, it may have gone unnoticed by many that the fourth round of the Carabao Cup is pencilled in for Dec. 21 — three days after the World Cup final.
The likely strain on the City and Liverpool squads is obvious with each facing a run of 24 games in 105 days — a competitive fixture every 4.37 days. For Liverpool, that workload comes on the back of a season in which they played every fixture available to them having reached the finals of both domestic cups and the Champions League.
With such a tight turnaround from the end of one season to the start of another, time will tell as to how much of an impact the absence of a sufficient summer break will have on those players likely to be involved at the World Cup.
England manager Gareth Southgate may live to regret using captain Harry Kane in all four Nations League games — 295 minutes from a possible 360 — and not telling the Tottenham forward to start his summer break early, as he did for Liverpool defender Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Kane played 61 games for club and country last season — 11 more than Alexander-Arnold — but he remained in the England camp after the Anfield full-back was released following the second Nations League game against Germany.
When Rashford and Sancho return to training at United next week, they should be refreshed from their longest summer holiday in recent memory and able to capitalise by breaking back into the international set-up in September.
Rashford and Sancho are likely to be exceptions, however. The majority of football’s biggest stars are already playing catch-up with their physical and mental recovery, and time may already be against them.
The new season will arrive too soon for some, and the fixture congestion will give them no time to catch a breath.
But if you’re missing it all, you won’t have long to wait for the fun to return.