Nothing stops the wheels of big businesses for very long and football is big business, huge in fact. The Covid-19 lockdown has hit the world hard including sport, but the fear is that football’s prolonged absence will eventually see some clubs go out of existence. It’s a dramatic statement but as the days and weeks disappear, it increases the chances of clubs at the bottom of the cash pyramid doing likewise.
Many suspects that football is coming back within weeks to be played behind closed doors and although it requires much to be resolved, Arsenal are taking a lead by commencing training again. It’s not traditional training in the truest sense of the word, but they are bringing back the squad to increase fitness levels under a new set of guidelines that they hope will benefit them when the season recommences.
Arsenal took the bold step of reopening their training centre at London Colney to at least control how and when players train after four Arsenal players Nicolas Pepe, Granit Xhaka, David Luiz and Alexandre Lacazette broke the current isolation rules.
Quite how training works in practice is hard to imagine with social distancing in place and it’s even harder to imagine a 90 minute game of football.
So what do we know?
Training is voluntary and will be staggered with groups of five players attending one-hour workout sessions which will be attended by the club’s coaches.
Players will travel to the ground alone and leave the same way. They will be denied access to the communal areas such as the gym and the changing rooms and they will arrive in their training kit and leave the ground to shower at home.
It’s said that they will be given new individual training programmes and schedules to meet whilst in their home environment and that the club is making every effort to ensure that their players have what they need to keep fit. The Sun was one of the first to break the story and informed us that a club source had said:
“We have been looking at opening up the training ground for a couple of weeks now because our players have been in lockdown longer than any other club’s.”
“The players will continue to train in strict isolation (that will make a change) on separate pitches and will not be allowed to mingle or socialise together.”
So basically, Arsenal will be keeping a beady eye on its players to ensure they don’t get caught again by the press having an impromptu kick about in a park. Although the benefits of this type of training are questionable, it does at least provide some sort of routine and a sense of team spirit during the Covid-19 crisis, even if they are broken up into groups.
The Gunners also felt they had to do something because they had no real control over individual training regimes and no idea if the basic training routines were even being met, they have now implemented measures that provide some structure and purpose.
Apart from the obvious, any form of training will increase individual motivation, prevent boredom, create accountability, and provide support.
These are unusual times and the mental health of players is as important as the physical stimulus. It’s something that all football clubs have been trying to address during the Covid-19 lockdown. I’m convinced that the game will return very soon and that this is just the first step to a full resumption.