Resting, rotation and fatigue. A relatively recent problem in domestic football has now encroached to the world of international football. Joachim Low, Germany’s immensely successful national team manager, has begun to rest his key players. Those without a winter break (the Premier League players) are first on the list to be given a relaxing fortnight instead of two international games, as the German boss takes full advantage of the deep list of options he has.
This is not the first time Low has taken such action, having done something similar in October. It is perhaps the start of a change in approach for international managers, particularly those with the embarrassment of talented riches like Low. Squad management is a daily task for club managers, but rotation is seldom considered in the same way by international bosses. Managing a national team means you will rarely have to deal with the effects of burnout or niggling injuries, the onus has always been on club sides to wrap their players in cotton wool.
This has led to long-running feuds between club and country and endless withdrawals of players. Perhaps Low’s new outlook could enable some club’s and country’s to work more harmoniously.
For England it might be far more difficult. Any manager will be under greater pressure than Low – whose success gives him plenty of license to do pretty much as he pleases. And even if English players gladly accepted their rest, it would unearth some ugly responses in the media. Imagine the reaction: players painted as being afraid to represent their country. It would cause an unnecessary, clumsy storm. Players need rest, but the culture surrounding English football would see resistance to players being rested from their ‘duty’ of representing their country.
England, for all their weaknesses, do not need to have their supposedly strongest team available for this international break – or many others, even. Qualifying is a breeze for the most part and friendlies are also mostly pointless. There is sufficient depth for England to rotate their players with ease. Little is ever gained from the monotony of the qualification process, so make use of it and give players a competitive chance to shine.
Players’ careers can be lengthened with a well-timed rest, too. Wayne Rooney’s decline may have been delayed, Paul Scholes may have not retired from international football as prematurely as he did and, in the current cohort, Harry Kane can be helped to avoid injury. A rest for Kane would allow England to pick the red hot Charlie Austin, which would at least begin to right some of the wrongs from the squad selected for this November break.
Circumstances dictate that Southgate following in Low’s footsteps is unlikely. It would, though, bring about a new approach. Cleansing the England squad of the favoured names, even temporarily, would bring in different faces who could be tested at international level. A forced experimental tone to the squad, if you will. Rather than the same, grizzled, tiring players, copying Jogi Low’s approach would open doors for players currently unable to dislodge more established names.