Crystal Palace manager Patrick Vieira would not support a players’ strike, but is concerned over pushing anyone back into action too soon after recovering from coronavirus.
Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson has spoken out over issues of welfare not being taken seriously enough while Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola suggested a strike may be the only way to call serious attention to the concerns amid a Premier League fixture pile-up.
The intensity of the Christmas schedule, and the burden it places on players, is an annual subject of debate, but this year the issue is being exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
As a player, former midfielder Vieira enjoyed great success with Arsenal and captained Arsene Wenger’s side through their undefeated 2003/2004 Premier League campaign.
The 45-year-old, who lifted the 1998 World Cup with France, feels the hectic run of fixtures can be managed, but stressed there needs to be careful consideration for any player working their way back from a coronavirus infection.
“I don’t know if they would be right to do it, the only thing I can tell you is I am against this kind of strike,” Vieira said ahead of Palace’s trip to Tottenham on Boxing Day.
“What is really important at the moment is the voice of players or managers should be heard a little bit more.”
— Crystal Palace F.C. (@CPFC) December 20, 2021
The former Arsenal captain added: “I am not worried about the players’ welfare regarding the games during this period because it has been like that for years and years. What I am worried about is the players’ welfare regarding Covid.
“I think players coming back from a Covid situation and asking them to play, having not had enough training, is a lot on them. This is what I am worried about.”
Norwich head coach Dean Smith, meanwhile, is uncertain just what side he will be able to send out against Arsenal on Boxing Day as the club continue to grapple with a coronavirus outbreak.
🗣 DS: “We’ve had some fresh Covid cases but we’ve got others coming back, so pretty similar to other clubs.
— Norwich City FC (@NorwichCityFC) December 24, 2021
Smith has already seen one game called off because of the issues, but believes clubs just have to follow the latest Premier League guidelines – which state games must be played if 13 outfield players and one goalkeeper from the squad were available.
Asked whether he would back a player strike if requested by Norwich’s captain, Smith said: “I don’t think you can. We have to follow the guidelines of the league that we are in.
“The Premier League have given their guidelines on what needs to be done to get a game postponed.
“The West Ham game was too much for us, and that got postponed by the Premier League after we submitted a request with the injuries and the illness that we had, so that is the way forward and that is the way we will continue.”
Smith added: “We went into a (Premier League managers’) meeting yesterday where the decisions had already been made, so I think we had already missed the boat in terms of decision making.
“They (Premier League) decided the season would continue as was and we have got to fulfil fixtures now, so we have to cope as best we can.”
The Norwich boss revealed he felt “it was bordering on negligible” for him having to field the likes of Sam Byram who was rushed back into action following a lengthy lay-off when sent on as an emergency substitute during the 2-0 defeat against Villa.
“I think we are in a dangerous situation now, where we are risking the health and welfare of the players,” said Smith.