To be fair to Manchester City, a club that has complained more than most about fixture congestion went further than most this summer to do something about it.
Pep Guardiola does not need any prompting to bemoan the demands placed on players across the footballing calendar, and that was in evidence again with the majority of his first-team squad spending a month at the European Championship or the Copa America. Having played all but one game of a potential Quadruple, some stars then went all the way with their national teams.
City took the unusual step of giving their players an additional week of holiday before returning to Manchester for the new campaign. While there were a few exceptions – Ruben Dias had very little rest before stepping straight back into the team for a friendly with Preston in July – nearly everyone was granted another week on top of the three they are recommended before returning to training.
The obvious drawback for this would be City beginning the campaign short of fitness and rhythm – a message Guardiola gloomily raised on a number of occasions up to and including their Community Shield defeat at Wembley. It spilled into the season too, with just three of the outfield players that lined up for the opening weekend at Tottenham keeping their place for the recent tests at Chelsea and Liverpool.
However, while the manager may grumble he also appreciates that footballers are human beings and need time away – both from football and from him. There are nine months in the season where he will place extraordinary demands on them, so every extra day or week they can have helps to keep them happy and motivated for the job they have to do.
Looking back at the opening months of the season, it is hard to argue that the strategy hasn’t paid off handsomely.
City haven’t lost since the opening weekend and put in blockbuster performances at Stamford Bridge and Anfield to leave them well-positioned in the table having sent a message to the rest of the league that they won’t give up their title without a serious fight.
There hasn’t been too much rotation but there will be more to come, especially as Champions League football continues; the only match City have looked flat in since Spurs was the Southampton game that came three days after Leipzig.
Phil Foden and Kevin De Bruyne have been allowed the time to recover from considerable injuries without being rushed back, with Bernardo Silva making light of their absence as well as an unfortunate injury to Ilkay Gundogan by covering the ground that three players would.
A few injuries remain, but City have certainly been rewarded for giving their players extra rest and will return after the international break with fresh energy to make headway in three competitions.