Nothing to be gained from mid-season internationals

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This needless and dangerous international break has highlighted the need for a deal to scrap nonsense friendlies during the domestic season.


It was timely that news of a deal between the European Club Association (ECA) and UEFA over the timing of international fixtures was made yesterday.


The ECA also came to an agreement over insurance for players who are away on international duty, although the most relieving news for fans concerned over the effect on Premier League clubs is the expected scrapping of the August international friendly.


But it is not only a friendly at the very beginning of the season that is troublesome; the friendly with Holland and others could also prove to be something of a bane for club teams around Europe.


There are 13 games to go in the Premier League and the competition has entered an extremely crucial period for a number of England most prominent clubs.


That is why a pointless friendly in the middle of a week that is surrounded by Champions League fixtures and FA Cup replays is nothing more than a nuisance.


For example, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur had an extremely draining – though admittedly, for fans, exciting – north London derby on Sunday afternoon, the result of which could have a significant effect of their ultimate fortunes this season.


After trailing by two goals after 34 minutes Arsene Wenger’s side stormed back to cruise to a 5-2 win over their fierce rivals. It was an astonishing turnaround in a game notable for its energy and hectic pace.


Despite the out come being very different for the teams, they will share a common dislike for the friendly strains that will be placed upon a number of his players.


The significance of the result for Arsenal was great, as they were at another low point of their season following defeats to AC Milan and Sunderland.


The 28 minutes in which they scored their five goals was moment of footballing clarity that has more often than not been absent in the Gunners game this season, a moment of unity in direction and play that had devastating effects on their opposition.


Wenger would likely have wanted to utilise the euphoria of that victory and used it throughout the week to build a feeling of belief and momentum heading into an equally as important fixture (in league position terms, not ride or rivalry) against Liverpool on Saturday morning.


As such, there are reports that leading player and captain Robin van Persie has had to sit out part of a training session as a precaution after feeling pain in his hip.


The Holland coach, Bert van Marwijk, is now considering whether to use the striker or not, but is apparently keen to do so.


It would be unfair to criticise Van Marwijk for wanting to use one of his best players, he is the coach of the Holland national team of course, but Wenger will be furious if there are repercussions from taking event he slightest risk over his main man.


What would the risk be worth? So Van Persie can turn out in a completely meaningless game against a somewhat experimental England team? There is no merit in the fixture and the player would currently be resting if he was not required to play.


Tottenham will share a similar distaste for fixtures that will take such a large chunk of the preparation they can do for their own big game.


It was a heavy defeat for the Whit Hart Lane club and Harry Redknapp will now find it difficult to get them together and raise spirits ahead of their clash with Manchester United this Sunday.


“We need to bounce back and recover. The problem is that everyone is going to various parts of the world to play international games,” the Spurs boss said after the game.


“They don't come back until Friday so there's hardly anyone in all week. It's crazy build-up to massive games at this stage of the season and with us playing Manchester United next week.


“It's difficult, the schedule. We've got people going to Mexico. One lad is off to New Zealand on a 34-hour flight.”


The ‘lad’ in question is Ryan Nelsen and he is 34 years old, but this doesn’t detract from the ridiculousness of the journey he must take for a game against Jamaica that ultimately means nothing.


Liverpool are another team who will harbour concerns of players playing midweek when they have just been through the rigours of extra-time and penalties in the Carling Cup final.


In fact all teams will have a similar story when it comes to sending away key players to represent their national teams and it is rare to find a club manager who will welcome the release of squad members for friendlies.


In fact, FIFA have deemed it compulsory for all clubs to make their players available for selection and you aren’t going to find many footballers who will turn down the call, however pointless a certain game is.


This is by no means saying all friendlies are irrelevant, they’re not, they give a manager of a national team insight as to the qualities of his players and provides a chance to audition newer members without risking anything.


However, all friendlies during the season, especially late in the year as now, are avoidable and can turn out to be harmful.


An already long season can only be made more stressful by adding a game where certain players are required to travel thousands of miles between highly important fixtures for the teams that pay their wages.


What happens if a star player is injured while playing in the game? Before the argument of ‘it could happen in any game’ is wheeled out, consider the game it could happen in was avoidable?


This should be even more poignant in the time leading up to a major tournament, when managers of countries should be extremely concerned as to how fresh a state their players arrive in.


Friendlies are fine and dandy if any consequent mishap from them holds no repercussion for clubs, players and even the national side itself – much like the result

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Tottenham Hotspur
Robin Van Persie
Premier League

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