It’s that time again where Tottenham Hotspur and the rest of the domestic league take a two week break. In its place enters the mindnumbing snorefest that is the World Cup qualifiers. For some players it will offer a much deserved rest from competitive action whilst for others the opportunity to continue to improve the sharpness that regular games bring, this time for their countries.
Maybe it’s just an English thing but International football to put it bluntly, sucks during a qualifying campaign. Littered in between an already clustered fixture list, ties pop up in a more unwelcome fashion than Kelvin MacKenzie in a crowded Liverpool city centre.
It couldn’t have come at a worse time for Spurs on paper. Four consecutive league wins, while also retaining an unbeaten run that stretches back to Mid-August, has been recognition of the improvement that the side has been making under Andre Villas-Boas’ leadership. Players have been chosen to play twice a week for the last month, in many cases, and despite the season still fresh and in its early stages, fatigue will be an underlying worry. Performances have looked sharper in recent times as the squad’s unity has strengthened as more time has been spent alongside each other both on and off the pitch.
Then there is the case of many players jetting across the world to compete in a meaningless fixture, only responding so as not to alienate themselves from their national side for major tournaments. Long distance flights are tiring and can leave certain individuals drained for days. Many players have evidently returned from such trips and performed below the high standards expected.
However to take an entirely negative spin on the situation would be short-sighted, with much to be grateful towards such a break too.
International football is undoubtedly played at a slower pace in most instances than domestically and as a result the amount of energy expanded is a lot less. By performing in games like this, the players are able to gain the vital match practice whille lowering the chance of injury due to the reduced intensity. For all the injuries that occur on international duty the majority occur in training sessions, often a problem that could so easily have arisen in training for a club side.
It can also be helpful for bringing players up to speed. Gylfi Sigurdsson, for example, has found his opportunities hard to come by in recent games, as a result of Clint Dempsey’s form, and a chance to start for Iceland could help sharpen up his attributes, ready to return to the club in the Swansea City form of last season rather than the Spurs form of the current one.
Then there is the confidence that success on the international stage can breed. As much as we like to believe that players don’t enjoy playing for their countries, the majority of them do. Many see it as an honour to wear their nation’s shirt and therefore are delighted if they put on a decent display, even if only against a small minnow, such as the Faroe Islands. If that confidence can be translated back into club form, everyone’s a winner.
My final argument for the break being positive focuses more on the benefits of the timing for Spurs. In this case, the break has come just before a tough tie against Chelsea. Against opposition of Chelsea’s class, preparation is everything and we all know Villas-Boas likes to do his homework. Two weeks to analyse his former club and those he knows so well will be massively advantageous. Meanwhile Sandro will get to monitor how Oscar is playing on international duty and develop ideas for stopping him in their training sessions, likewise Jan Vertonghen with Eden Hazard.
People will always focus on the negatives of an international break and it goes without saying that darkest fears have been known to come to fruition on occasions. Whether I’ve convinced you or not I hope that the other perspective will help to look on the bright side. There are worse things in football than an international break.
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