The new Premier League drinks breaks are certainly dividing opinion – but are they actually giving particular teams an advantage?
The drinks breaks were brought in along with a number of other new guidelines ahead of football’s return following its shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.
A host of managers have been having their say on the matter, with some suggesting it has become more of a tactical time-out rather than a period to take on fluids. Read on for the managers’ verdict and the opinion of Sky Sports’ Gary Neville, as well as a closer look at the data so far…
‘It’s a mini team-talk – and it’s impacting the pace’
Sky Sports’ Gary Neville: “I can understand the hydration points are important for the prevention of injuries but it just feels forced a little bit. The game is being played at a less-than Premier League pace.”
Speaking during Tottenham’s 1-0 win over Everton, Neville added: “They are more tactical breaks than a drinks break. They are mini team-talks, every single one of them. I’m not quite sure they were designed for that.
“I think we need to stop it, I do honestly. It’s something I can understand as a player but they’ve had a few games back now. Their fitness levels should be up to a standard. It’s not hot at all. If it was then fair enough.”
‘All coaches have the same opportunity – it’s fair’
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp: “I like it a lot. If people think that you only need a drinks break when it’s 40 degrees or something outside and, of course, England is not a country where you need a drinks break really often, especially in the north-west or north-east.
“But, it’s important just to have that because it was always going to be a strange period for the players and we didn’t know how exactly the boys would react.
“I really like the opportunity to talk. I think from the moment the referee whistles, it starts, it pretty much takes the players 30 seconds for the players to gather around, so you don’t actually have a lot of time with the players.
“You really go there for a drink, but you can give one or two information. All coaches have the same opportunity in that moment, so that’s good, it’s fair.”
‘It’s four quarters now… and I didn’t need Bovril at Burnley!’
Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder: “I certainly didn’t need a drinks break on Sunday afternoon at Burnley apart from having another Bovril.
“That would have been my second Bovril that I have had in July on record in the history of having Bovrils.
“If you look, there’s not many people having a drink or there having a little slip. But there’s quite a lot of huddling going on, togetherness going on and managers, coaches getting into the players.
“It’s not two halves, it’s four quarters and there’s a time out inbetween. So, that’s another change that we have to get used to.”
‘Don’t think anyone would want it beyond season’
Chelsea boss Frank Lampard: “I think he (Chris Wilder) does have a point. I think they were brought in with the right intention.
“So as a coach, you try and use it if you can, because any opportunity to speak to the players during the game can be pretty precious.
“So I don’t think it’s an uneven playing field in that sense – we all have the same periods to speak to our players.
“I think it’s been brought in place for this short part of the season and maybe they’ll see it through to the end of the season.
“But I can’t see it going any further than that, I don’t think anyone would want that.”
‘Only done for lack of conditioning’
Man City boss Pep Guardiola: “Would I like it to stay next season? No. We did it because of the lack of preparation for all the teams, we had just two or three weeks before the start of the competition and because of the weather conditions.
“It was for the lack of physical conditioning and the managers used it to talk to their players.”
‘It’s needed in intense game at 30 degrees’
Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl: “Fantastic because (against Manchester City) we handled drinking break to drinking break and give us a few moments to have a breather.
“I think especially when you play in the afternoon or at noon when it’s very hot, it’s absolutely necessary.
“We want to see intense games and this is not possible when you must run in 30 degrees. This is why we decided to have this drinks break.”
‘It’s a tactical break all of a sudden’
Burnley boss Sean Dyche: “I don’t see the drink break thing, I’ve got to be honest. Only on a hot day which we have always kind of had in place. Referees would use their sense. If it was a randomly, bizarrely hot day then that’s fair obviously.
“We don’t want any trouble and hydration is a massive thing in sport of all kinds. It’s a bit over-egged for me. Trust me, I’m looking out of the window in my office and it’s about 13 degrees and shelling it down. I don’t really think you will be needing a drinks break to be honest but c’est la vie.
“Well the idea was for the drinks break, it is actually a drinks break but we have seen that it’s like a tactical break all of a sudden. I think everyone is just trying to get on with it. Like I say, I’m not too fussed with it all. Different people are trying to use it in different ways, but I think the intention was just to get some drinks down people and then get on with it.
“You can get the message onto the pitch much easier with no one in the stadium anyway. I don’t necessarily think that’s relevant to just use a line that the drinks break is like that, because you can easily get information on now without the fans in the stadium.”
Analysis: What do the stats say?
Sky Sports’ Adam Smith
Sean Dyche may claim he can deliver tactical messages without a drinks break, but his side turned the game around and scored after their first-half refresher against Sheffield United on Sunday.
Overall, there does appear to be a slightly greater concentration of goals scored around the midway points of both halves since the drink breaks were introduced.
The graphic below reveals there have been far fewer goals, proportionately, in the opening quarter of an hour since the restart.
But, most noticeably, there is a clear spike in goals between the 66th and 70th minute – when the second drinks break would usually take place.
In terms of the clubs, Manchester United appear to be more dangerous during the first drinks break period, while Newcastle are prolific around the second-half refresher.
Conversely, Bournemouth have conceded three goals around the first drinks break, while Aston Villa and West Ham are vulnerable just before or after second-half drinks.