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Football Tactics

How footballers train during international breaks

While fans love major tournaments such as the World Cup, it would be fair to say that international breaks are not viewed with the same affection.

National team managers argue they need to get their players to prepare for the challenges that lie ahead, but many fans view the shutdown of the domestic game as pointless.

Many club managers have complained about the workload, and preventing injuries is a significant headache they must contend with.

The packed schedule can cause severe physical consequences for players, and football’s governing bodies are seemingly oblivious to the issue.

The international break often results in the biggest clubs losing the bulk of their squad, leaving just a handful of first-team players for the coaches to work with.

This can be particularly frustrating when Nations League games are staged, with some club managers arguing they are just glorified friendlies.

Qualifying games for major tournaments are undoubtedly far more important but place even greater demands on top-class players.

The international break in March 2022 perfectly highlighted the significant impact on clubs that would rather be focusing on their own seasons.

Manchester City lost 11 members of their first-team squad to international teams, with several of them travelling long distances to play matches.

However, Kevin De Bruyne, Kyle Walker, Gabriel Jesus, Fernandinho and Ruben Dias were among the players not selected for international duty.

With so many other players unavailable, manager Pep Guardiola gave his remaining stars time off to recuperate ahead of the run-in.

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta took a different approach, despite losing 14 first-team squad members to international call-ups.

The players left behind were required to report for training at London Colney, with several of the club’s under-23 squad brought in to make up the numbers.

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has been a vocal critic of the demands placed on players, so it was no surprise to see him adopt a cautious approach.

The players not chosen by their respective nations were given a week off, although each was handed individual fitness programmes to keep them ticking over.

While the Reds finished the league season strongly, it was not enough to prevent Man City from winning their fourth title in five years.

Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel also used the international break to give some of his players a rest after a testing run of fixtures.

The club had played 31 games in 120 days since the last international break, highlighting the extreme demands placed on elite-level players.

Manchester United also pulled the plug on training during the break, allowing squad members not on international duty to take a spring break.

Some players headed to Dubai, while others were spotted on vacation in Italy. Despite grabbing some much-needed rest, United missed out on Champions League qualification.

With a reputation for being a tough taskmaster, Tottenham Hotspur manager Antonio Conte used the international break to work with the remaining members of his squad.

Conte took charge of Spurs in November 2021, so he missed the opportunity to implement his ideas during pre-season.

The Italian worked on fitness and set pieces during the break, and his efforts paid off as Spurs finished their Premier League campaign strongly.

They were defeated just once after the international break and ended the season by clinching fourth position and a place in the 2022/23 Champions League.

While rest and recovery unquestionably play a crucial role in modern football, it would appear that some managers prefer to implement old-school methods.

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