By Shaun Wylde – @ShaunWylde
The first couple of international breaks at the beginning of a season are agonising for football fans.
All international breaks are a pain but these early ones are irritating because they usually come at a time where your team is just beginning to find some sort of momentum. Having players jetting around the world for meaningless friendlies feels like a pointless venture.
The most recent break was a different story for me, I felt like the players who could do with a pause from club football after a very intense and difficult period… that was until I found out this international break was for the UEFA Nations League.
The UEFA Nations League was created only recently and this is the first year that the competition has been in action. It contains 55 teams and its fixture list is expected to replace most friendly international games that FIFA have on their calendar. For me, Jurgen Klopp described it best:
“The most senseless competition in the world.”
That pretty much sums it up – to start a new international competition in the September after a World Cup has to be one of the most bone-headed decisions UEFA have made. Furthermore, there are a number of concerns for Liverpool as a result of this competition.
When the international break contained pointless friendlies, while there was always a feeling of frustration for football fans but at least there were opportunities for players to be rested.
This is unlikely to be the case now that these fixtures are considered competitive games. International managers will be forced to put out the team with their best available players in it rather than use the games to try out new players or ideas.
In addition, the actual players are unlikely to look at the UEFA Nations League in the same way that fans or club managers do. Just this past week players have come out and said publicly that they did not agree with his assessment of the competition including our own captain Jordan Henderson.
This is to be expected from players, they spend their entire life dreaming of playing for their country, even the friendlies are important to them so the UEFA Nations League isn’t going to mean any less just because its inconvenient. Unfortunately for Liverpool this means players are going to go all out in these games and are going to leave themselves at a higher risk of injury.
What can do Liverpool do about this? Pretty much nothing. In general Liverpool will have to let the players go in the best possible condition and hope they come back the same way.
Something they should be attempting is what City seem to be doing at the moment. None of it is ‘official’, but its quite striking how Man City’s players have all been pulling out of the international breaks each time so far this season. It seems clear to me that Pep is having a word with the players to prioritise club football over international, it would be nice if Klopp would do the same with our players.
Maybe he’s already done this as there have been times where Liverpool’s players have been completely unused subs or have been taken off very early but it wouldn’t be the worst idea to stop them from flying out at all so they could spend more time training at Melwood.
There’s still a way to go in terms of reaching the full flowing footy we had last season. However, as mentioned before, this becomes quite difficult when players are going to, more often than not, want to take part in it – it’s up to Klopp to find a way around it, if there is one.
In trying to make the international break something that is no longer pointless, UEFA have only managed to give football clubs and their managers one more headache.