On paper, it sounds like a good thing that Chelsea’s first team squad is packed with players who represent their country.
In practice, the international break is a headache for a coach like Maurizio Sarri. The last thing he needs is two weeks of enforced inactivity, because he has a long way to go in teaching his students the intricacies of a new style of football.
As it stands, Sarri only has eight senior members of his squad on hand right now — Rob Green, Victor Moses, Gary Cahill, David Luiz, (injured) Cesc Fàbregas, Danny Drinkwater, Ross Barkley and Pedro.
“I don’t know if it’s a good thing because it will be very difficult to work. We have 18 or 19 players going away with the national teams so at Cobham there will only be left eight or nine players. So it will be very difficult to work.”
He can train, of course, but it will have limited impact. So what’s a workaholic to do? Walk his dog, Ciro, apparently.
“I have my dog here now so I will be going out walking with my dog.”
Aside from the immediate effect of slowing down the learning process, Sarri is also concerned about the season-long ramifications of these additional matches. He’s a coach who, once he figured out his starting eleven at Napoli, didn’t rotate much. All those minutes add up and he frets, especially in a year the promises to be extra busy — the last time Chelsea played in the Europa, we had six (6!) players with 60 or more appearances for the club, without even counting international or Club World Cup games (Torres, Mata, Oscar, Čech, Ramires, Hazard).
Rotation can theoretically mitigate some of this workload, but no coach wants to be deprived of their best players by some other team for hundreds of minutes each season.
“It’s a problem because with this situation at the end of the season we will have very important players who have played 65 or 70 matches. I think that is not right.”
-Maurizio Sarri; source: ESPN
Calls for FIFA and all the continental federations to reform and rethink the international calendar are nothing new, but so far, they have shown very little reluctance to do so in a useful manner. In fact, UEFA’s ingenious response to the complaints of players wasting their time on meaningless friendlies was to try to add some meaning with the Nations League rather than take to take them away or at least move them to the offseason. (And let’s not even get started on the idea of a “winter” World Cup in 2022.)
But with everyone trying to make as much money as possible on the backs of players — case in point to expose their true priorities: Denmark — it’s a situation that’s not likely to change anytime soon. It’s one of the realities of the modern game, which sometimes feels too popular for its own good.