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Jack Wilshere be warned

It`s an interesting observation from Cesc that he feels, at the age of 23 that perhaps he is now suffering physically having played too many games too early in his career.

"The good news is there is no tear on the hamstring, nothing. It`s just a little bit of fluid, but it keeps coming back" the Arsenal captain commented in his program notes "We have to work on it, but also understand that I am 23 years old and I`ve played many, many games. Soon I will play my 200th Premier League game, as well as nearly 60 for the national team and 60 in the Champions League. So that`s a lot of games for my age and I have to take care of myself."

Cesc`s career certainly got underway at Arsenal very early. He`d played 46 games for Arsenal in the season in which he`d reached 18 just as it came to an end. He`s been an ever present ever since. But the thing that strikes me is that at such a young age he has played nearly 60 games for the national team. That`s almost 20% of the total he has quoted. He hasn`t had a full summer break since he left his teens. I daresay he is delighted to have been part of a Spanish team at a time when they were able to challenge successfully for the major tournaments and wouldn`t have wanted to miss out on that. Even so what proportion of games that he has turned out for should have been acceptable for club games if he didn`t want to lose out on international representation? If there`s a suggestion that the 80% of playing time dedicated to his club is too much would 70% be sensible? To turn that around; is it acceptable that almost a third of his young career so far should be dedicated to the national side?

This echoes a theme I took up earlier this season reflecting on the benefits to the early season form of players like Theo, before he was crocked on international duty, Nasri and Rosicky, of absence from last summer`s international demands. I also pointed to the praise that Paul Scholes, a longer term international absentee, who had also started the season in impressive form had received as I wrote at the time:

There is a price to pay for chasing the ancillary glory of international football - I wonder if Michael Owens career would not have waned so markedly by the age of 25 had he not made more England appearances by that age than Scholes was prepared to in his whole career. Ryan Giggs career, and his club, has also benefited from Giggs'own modest commitments to international football.

Last year Theo sacrificed most of a club season, perhaps not fatally damaging at his age if he has learned his lesson. Scholes, who didn`t make a full England appearance until 23 and ended his commitment to his national team at 29, seems to have benefited from knowing on which side his reputation is buttered. He is regularly feted as a world class player despite not having played for his national side for 6 years. Four years after his last England appearance Scholes was inducted into the England Hall of Fame an award only made possible by the quality of his performances at club level since his retirement. As yet Owen, still open to an England call-up, hasn`t been as far as I can see. Therein lies the first lesson Theo`s football brain has to learn. What you do in an international shirt is secondary, by some distance, to what you do in a club shirt. Your status as an international player will be measured pretty well exclusively by what you achieve with and for your club - everything else is window dressing.

I daresay that Wayne Rooney`s problems this season aren`t entirely related to his international exertions but for a player only just 25 he has also played more times for England than Scholes has done in his career. There is a relationship I feel between longevity and over committing yourself too early to an international career when you already have a demanding club career. Maybe to protect its young players full international football shouldn`t be open to players under the age of 23 and before then limited to no more than 3 or 4 games a season at under full international level.

Being deprived of a full summer break is as debilitating as the number of games played. As much as anywhere that's the direction I think Cesc should be or should have been looking towards in terms of his recently discovered need to look after himself. Perhaps full length summer breaks should be mandatory for all players under 23.

It`s frustrating to think that some brilliant young players could find their careers inhibited because of excessive physical demands just as they are reaching a point of physical maturity which should allow us to see them at the height of their powers. Jack Wilshere be warned.

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The Journalist

Writer: Amos Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Tuesday November 9 2010

Time: 8:28AM

Your Comments (oldest first)

Change to most recent first
it is a funny conundrum...would maradona be as highly rated had he not single handedly (pun not intended) take argentina to the world cup? and Pele? perhaps the prestige of the international is a thing of yesterday? certainly fandom these days is more club orientated... i would certainly be much happier seeing wilshere doing well for arsenal than for england...then again, im australian, so i couldnt care less how england fare... i should stop drunken commenting really....
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09/11/2010 09:38:00

Don't forget Wishere is being selected for both under 21s and full england team.
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09/11/2010 10:00:00

Many (most?) of his games for Spain were as a substitute, and he was hardly used in the world cup. I actually think he's talking about his games for Arsenal more than anything else. He's started on 34 games and played a total of 46 in the 2004/5 season when he was only 17, and 41 and a total of 50 when he was 18.
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09/11/2010 12:13:00

Sure but he's been on international duty with Spain in each of the last 3 summers, for the Euros, Confederation Cup and the World Cup (and before that). He was still training and playing when he would have been resting. I don't suppose he regrets that having won medals with Spain but there's little point in seemingly complaining about overplaying in those circumstances. Fact is he wouldn't have been playing for his country if he weren't first playing for his club.
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09/11/2010 12:24:00

The main point is the players you've mentioned were overused in an early age both by country and by their clubs. Arsenal got Cesc when he was 16 by promising him regular football almost right away. Arsenal enjoyed and profited a lot from Cesc's precociousness so clearing the blame from the club (if it really turns out to be a long term problem) and blaming it on internationals is a bit one sided to me.
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09/11/2010 14:28:00

It's not really one sided is it. The club employs him, pays his wages and delivers on their promise to give him regular top flight football. It's the internationals that then create the additional burden. If the club weren't picking him his national side wouldn't be picking him either - as Capello warned both Wilshere and Gibbs. The national sides should have an policy of avoiding placing additional burdens on young players and allow the clubs to determine how much football is appropriate for their physical development.
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09/11/2010 14:59:00

Much as I admire your loathing of the bloated bladder that is international football Amos ;) it is something that aint gonna go away. Sure we pay the wages but we just have to take into account the extra international fixtures, view them as unpaid charity work and build it into our players' schedules for allotted playing time instead of treating it as a separate issue? Maybe we do it already I dunno. It is a huge huge concern though for project kiddywink if after all this time and investment into youth that by the age they should be hitting peak they're utterly burned out. Are we heading to a team full of Ledleys because of our over reliance on youth? Is it really a case of too much too young where their still developing bodies whilst initially as capable of handling the rigours of full time PL footy are doing hefty long term damage only apparant on reaching maturity? Owen being the obvious example already cited above. It's gotta be a big worry surely?
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09/11/2010 16:12:00

He is not playing well for Arsenal this season. Remember the TH14 last season on his way to Barca? This whole mess looks the same to me. Henry kept complaining about injury the whole season and that gave us opportunity to start looking at other players of the future. Its Dejavu all over again with Barca
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09/11/2010 16:27:00

I don't feel Henry or Cesc have consciously 'thrown a sicky' in the periods you're talking about Arseniger. Henry was a grown man who was convinced by Wenger to stay for a further season and found it impossible to say no to a manager that had given him so much. That was our first season at the grove and my view of it is that figures at the club were terrified of undertaking it without their star player, despite Henry proving relatively peripheral in the scheme of things it was a safety blanket to know he was there. Cesc is still young and idealistic and it would've hit him harder to stay, the correlation between mind and body is an obvious one, if you're not happy/stressed whatever then your mind will subsequently go on to negatively affect your body, aches strains etc are all magnified. I think Cesc has been fine playing wise this season, for sure I've noticed a dropped head and subdued body language, we all have if we're honest but I don't put his injuries down to a strop.
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09/11/2010 17:03:00

I'm under no illusion that anything will change Niko but if Cesc, or anyone else, is going to be unhappy about playing too many games then he can have a career without international football far more easily and successfully than he can without club football.
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09/11/2010 17:27:00

But again Amos we both know there is no chance Cesc is going to issue voluntary international retirement from what is a world & euro cup winning squad lol. I do feel we've overplayed him looking at his stats, we've built a team around him and being brutally honest have next to no plan B without him - we're toothless and a shadow of the side we are when without him. You'd think by now one of Rosicky, Nasri or even Jack would be attempted to be moulded into Cesc2 regarding their positioning, playmaking and passing but obviously not, it's more important to 'express yourself' to do your own thing. In much the same way we refuse to analyse the opposition and negate any of their strengths, nope that's just not cricket we'll do our thing, they'll do theirs and may the best team win!
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09/11/2010 17:41:00

I don't disagree that we played Cesc too much too early and of course I accept that Cesc isn't going to withdraw from international football (though he would have thought about it if he were Welsh) but in complaining about playing too much football at a young age when 20% of the games played have been for the national side and you've voluntarily deprived yourself of a summer break for each season between 20 and 23 he should be willing to acknowledge that the choice was largely his. Nothings going to change I agree but it's not hard to see how players like Scholes and Giggs have benefited.
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09/11/2010 17:56:00

Who was the English player who pulled out of the u21 squad citing fatigue? I can't remember but I do remember them being roundly vilified and ridiculed for doing so. I don't think any young player can turn down a call up from their nations team, it's a really difficult one as your nations media will be right down your throat which has gotta be hard for players at the best of times, it will leave you a bit of a pariah really. You only have to look at England to see how much of a chore it is, there's little enthusiasm there, it's just a tedious household task, the sporting equivalent of doing the washing up, but the players know they have to turn out at least til they hit late twenties when they can do what Scholes and Giggs did without feeling the boot and wrath of the press.
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09/11/2010 18:12:00

It was Bentley that pulled out of an U-21 tournament.
Little Dutch
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09/11/2010 19:15:00

so it was, when at Blackburn, my memory is shocking, I did think it was maybe Bentley but thought it may've been Agbonlahor.
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09/11/2010 19:27:00

Agree - the impact of not having full summers off due to international duty cannot be underestimated, particularly if you have had a gruelling club season beforehand. Henry has never been the same player since 2006 when we got through to the Champions League final and then France got to the World Cup final. Bergkamp took ages to get going in the 1998/99 season after the Dutch made the semis in 1998. And Fabregas and van Persie have been disrupted by injuries this season after making it through to this year's final. Fact that Vermaelen is having a long injury spell on the sidelines after picking up a knock on international duty (just like Walcott this season, van Persie 2007 & 2009, Henry in 2005, Campbell in 2005, Ashley Cole and Clichy in 2005 when we subsequently had to play Cygan and Flamini at left back for the rest of the season) make it particularly frustrating. I don't think it would be workable in football but I have always liked cricket's approach to international/county appearances - England test/one day players are contracted to the ECB rather than the county and the ECB therefore manage how many county games they play to prevent them from playing too much cricket. Beats international FAs handing back injured players to the club who pay their wages without paying any compensation at all.
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09/11/2010 22:56:00

I'm not a massive fan of international football personally, or the way it is run. But let's be honest here, reputations are very much earned on the back of ones international form. We all know that in a World Cup year, you can basically throw club from out the window for winning any individual awards, Henry losing to Ronaldinho in a 40 goal, 20 assist season for the Balloon d'Or is proof enough of that. Also, the too many games argument goes both ways. Through sheer greed, UEFA have increased the number of games elite sides are forced to play by changing the formats of their 2 main competitions to make every team have to play more games than they did in the pre-Champions League/UEFA Cup days. It is a decent point you make Amos, but as always, a little objectivity wouldn't go astray.
Ozi Gooner
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10/11/2010 00:33:00

The number of games elite sides play hasn't really changed significantly in decades. The Arsenal 70/71 side played 56 games and last season we played 55 in all competitons. The WC tournament in '70 comprised 16 teams and last summer 32 teams. The qualifying rounds are longer and involve many more teams with more friendlies involving greater travel. Sure international tournaments can inflate reputations but it didn't handicap Weah in winning World player of the year and neither were Cristiano Ronaldo's or Figo's awards based on anything other than their club form.
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10/11/2010 01:11:00

Unsurprisingly, none of them won there awards in a World Cup year, which was the point
Ozi Gooner
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10/11/2010 04:41:00

I've accepted that international football can inflate reputations but players can succeed without it. For every player that has won world player of the year in a WC year there are 3 who didn't.
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10/11/2010 08:38:00


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