The Premier League season starts this weekend. Teams are doing their last minute preparation. Practising team specific drills. Who should mark who at set pieces. Who the opponents danger men are. Do they tend to go on the inside are out. What night club the players will visit after the game. And numerous other things that teams discuss before a Premier League match. And it is especially important this week. With it being the first game of the season and all. Getting off to a good start can mean a good season. Likewise a bad start can lead to a bad season. And a bad performance from Arsenal against Aston Villa could set a volatile tone to the next few games. This week is of über (did I just use über?) importance.
That is how I should be starting my first proper post on our new website. However, thanks to FIFA/UEFA or whoever decides on the International calendar, we are interrupted with by a mid week international before the season has even started. Can we even call it an international break?
Those boffins at FIFA (I just looked up that its them who decide) have once again scheduled an international match in August. Yes, it might be England v Scotland. The longest running international footballing rivalry, but frankly, I could not give a shit. I will not be watching. I will just be keeping an ear out for whatever player will get the guaranteed ‘Arsenal Player Injured on International Duty’ award for this break.
It is more frustrating that my manager can not continue talking to the
dozens of players he is about to buy. It is frustrating that the team are unable to prepare properly for the forthcoming game. It is frustrating that our players are flying half way around the globe 3 days before the season starts. In summary:
- Per Mertersacker and Lukas Podolski are in Germany playing a friendly against Paraguay
- Wojciech Szczesny travel home to Poland squad for a friendly against Denmark
- Bacary Sagna, Laurent Koscielny and Olivier Giroud are all in the squad for a friendly in Belgium
- Jack Wilshere, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott make the short trip to Wembley for the Scotland friendly
- Santi Cazorla travels to Ecuador for a friendly
All games are pointless and mean nothing. And it is that last call up of Santi Cazoirla that highlights the frustration. He has not had a proper pre-season due to his participation in FIFA’s Confederations Cup (A glorified Friendly Tournament). He has not yet played a full (or even major) part in a pre-season friendly, but instead of him being at the club, getting fitness, with perhaps a start away to Fulham being in mind, he is being flown out to Ecuador for a money spinning friendly. How is this right?
Now I full well know that every team is effected by this. And in ‘theory’ that makes it fair. But it still is not correct. How can it be right that a player potential picks up an injury which could see him out for a portion of the season, before he has even played for his club? And what if it is a new signing.
Take Jesus Navas at Manchester City for example. He has also struggled for fitness in pre-season for similar reasons as Cazorla. And he is also on the plane to Ecuador. Now say in that game, he breaks his leg and is out for the season? Manchester City have just spent £14.9m on a player who they are then robbed of by his country. Yes, injuries can happen at any point, but if this happened to an Arsenal player, it would leave a bitter taste in your mouth.
Whilst the Premier League, Serie A and La Liga might not of started, the Bundesliga & Ligue 1 have played its 1st round of games. Whilst the Dutch Eredivisie are already two games. And they all suffer from the same halt to pre (or early) season preparations.
FIFA have at least seen sense. This year is the last of the August International. However, the scrapping of this does not solve the problem of the early international break damaging a teams early preparation. The next round of international fixtures are on the 6th and 20th of September. That means the Premier League would of got in 3 rounds of games between the two international breaks. By the time the final whistle go’s between Ukraine and England, Jack Wilshere (who has barely played in 2013) would of played 3 games for England, and 3 for Arsenal. How is this right?
FIFA needs to go further. As well as scrapping the August International, they should also scrap the September International. How can teams get any early season momentum up if by the time they have played 3 games, they get 2 weeks off? And how frustrating is this for the fans? After 9 weeks without football, with Arsenal, fans get 3 weekends of it, until it stops for 2 weeks. And lets be honest, who really cares for international football?
The entire calender needs to be reviewed. Less friendlies. Less pointless qualifiers (what is the point of playing San Marino, Luxemburg, Scotland or Andorra?). International football needs to evaluate it position within the football calender. Club football is now king. And other then the World Cup and Continental Championships, very few are interested. The Premier League, The Champions League, this is what has become important.
International football is dying and rather then it trying to still act like it is important, it needs to learn its place.
No more international breaks before October.
That is the solution.