Equal Time: Why the international break does more harm than good
Already?! I hear you cry. Yes indeed, the first international break for the season is already upon us. It feels like just as things were clicking nicely into gear, domestic football was put on hold for a fortnight.
For Premier League fans, just four games have been played, while in Spain and Germany, they've taken to the field three and two times respectively. Just as that all-important match rhythm is beginning to grow, international superstars are sent packing; jetting to all corners of the globe to take part in UEFA's latest farce, the Nations League... This is just another gimmick in an effort to make international football appealing (big tournaments aside). It's not going to happen, during the season, all fans care about is their week-in-week-out club side rather than their country. It's harsh but true.
I look at high-flying Watford. Do you think Javi Gracia is delighted at the thought of his players having to take a two-week break while they're sitting on maximum points with four wins from four? Momentum has been stopped. I wouldn't be surprised to see them go on a four-game losing streak when they return; starting with Jose Mourinho's Manchester United visiting Vicarage Road.
The club vs. country row has been a thing for years. When players are suffering from little, niggling injuries, the last thing domestic managers want to see is their star man spending numerous hours on an aeroplane to take part in a game that is often forgotten about in a few weeks time. That's before we even discuss the injury-risk.
I look at Belgium. In training alone, Roberto Martinez's squad has been depleted by three players. Marouane Fellaini, Simon Mignolet and Christian Benteke all picked up knocks. They've returned to their clubs in the hope that they'll be fit to play when the Premier League returns in seven days time. Can you imagine Mourinho's frustration at the thought of being without his best player during their last outing against Burnley?
You may argue that it's just part and parcel of the game. To an extent, I agree. I'd be a lot more on board if it was a worthwhile game that the injury occurred in though. That's not the case during the September break. It's why I agree with having international games mid-season - I'd just prefer it if they weren't taking place so early on.
I think the fact that you see so many players pulling out is telling. Even the superstars in world football don't even like leaving at this point. They'd rather stay with their club, have two weeks off and recharge the batteries before the action starts coming thick and fast; particularly with the Champions League group stages kicking off in the not too distant future.
What's most important in the beautiful game is the fans. I've already touched upon this point somewhat, but I'm hard-pressed to find a supporter who's happy with the fact that they'll have to practically watch friendlies, while praying that their heroes don't get injured, counting down the days before the serious stuff gets underway again.
I say scrap the September international break, it'd also mean spreading the Premier League fixtures out across an extra weekend - reducing the need to play a round of midweek fixtures, lowering the chance of injury. It's a win-win, right?