2020 has been a long hard year for most people in the world since the spectre of COVID-19 raised its ugly head, and the government (along with the billionaire owners!) made it a priority to get the Premier League going again, despite the terrible restrictions placed on the general population.
Since the restart, the EPL has proven to be a welcome distraction for the poor folk that had to isolate themselves from the rest of society, and although the players are being very well rewarded for providing some entertainment, there has been little thought given to the mental effects on the players themselves, many of whom are far away from their families and friends at this worrying time.
Mikel Arteta admitted how hard it was for his Arsenal players, who are suddenly being forced to isolate even more than the rest of us, and then rolled out for our entertainment, albeit in empty stadiums, and he admits that it can be a very lonely life for very many of them. They are used to being in the spotlight in front of thousands of fans, and either celebrating (or commiserating) with the crowd and their fellow professionals depending on the result. Now their lives are pretty empty of human contact, and Arteta acknowledged the difficulties on Arsenal.com: “It is definitely affecting the players,”
“Now, for example with the lockdown: you win at Old Trafford, you feel excited, your adrenaline is really high, you go home and you want to celebrate, you want to do something, but you just go home, by yourself – some of the players live by themselves – and you go home, sit on the sofa, and that’s it.
“To find that purpose and say, ‘Okay, I work so hard for this moment, I want to enjoy it, I want to have people around me’ but you have nothing, so it is a completely different life.
“In our case, when you try to build a new project you need to engage the fans with the team. They have to see live what the team is transmitting. It is completely different on the TV, you are not able to do that.
“Without creating that chemistry between players and fans, for them to believe, for them to see live what we are trying to do, it is complicated. We need that. The players have to feel, ‘Wow, these guys are really behind us, they are really pushing, they are liking what we are trying to do… I feel more motivated, more engaged, I want to participate’ – and we are lacking that.”
Thankfully, there is now light at the end of the tunnel but there are still thousands of people dying every day around the world, and we can still expect at least a few more months of that until the vaccine can be widely distributed.
A lot of Arsenal fans are worried about not being able to spend Xmas with their families, but please spare a thought for the the players, especially the young ones that are thousands of miles from their families, who are going to have a very lonely Christmas indeed…