The Premier League football season, as usual, gets interrupted barely before it’s had a chance to get going this week with an international break as the World Cup 2014 qualifiers kick off across the globe. Not that we speak for all of you, but Liverpool fans are probably among the more apathetic about international football, at least where England are concerned.
Wouldn’t we rather be watching the Reds play after all?
However, moving away from that debate, after the start to the season Liverpool have had perhaps the break and the distraction might do the side good. While you’re waiting for Liverpool to get back to business next weekend, here at The Liverpool Word we thought we’d have a look back to how Liverpool performed last season in their matches following their players’ return from international action.
10.09.2011, Lost 0 – 1 vs Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium in the Premier League
Starters Martin Skrtel, Daniel Agger, Stewart Downing, Dirk Kuyt and Charlie Adam all featured in Euro 2012 qualifiers in the week preceding the defeat to Stoke. Skrtel may have been particularly shell shocked by Slovakia’s 4-0 home defeat to Armenia. However, in familiar fashion to the rest of the season, it was the performance in front of the opposition goal that cost the Reds, and Luis Suarez’s long trip back from a friendly against the Ukraine may have had something to do with that, as although he had the best of the chances for Liverpool, he was unable to find the net. Lucas was also in action for Brazil against Ghana, however the trip to London and back to play the friendly at Craven Cottage probably had little effect.
15.10.2011, Drew 1 – 1 vs Manchester United at Anfield in the Premier League
The same group of players were in action across Europe before the big home tie against Manchester United. Liverpool had the better of the game but it finished 1-1. Unfortunately for Skrtel his week featured a further two disappointing results for Slovakia and a long journey back from Macedonia, and it was Liverpool’s eventual player of the season who lost track of Hernandez as the Reds conceded the equaliser. Our South American contingent were also hard at work across the Atlantic. Luis Suarez scored the opener as Uruguay beat Bolivia 4-2 to kick start a successful week for his country, giving no indication he would have been in any sort of mood to be at fault for any altercations that might have occurred at Anfield the following weekend…
20.11.2011, Won 2 – 1 vs Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League
Stewart Downing and, particularly, Glen Johnson featured for England as they beat Spain 1-0 in a friendly. Buoyed by the win, but well rested having sat out a 2nd friendly against Sweden, Johnson was able to time a late burst into the box to bag the winner. Equally, Charlie Adam was not hindered by fatigue in setting up Johnson’s goal, having missed out on Scotland’s friendly with Cyprus. Most of the Reds’ usual international contingent started at Stamford Bridge, in addition to Craig Bellamy, who captained Wales to a 4-1 victory over Norway. Again though, no further Welsh friendly in the midweek meant Bellamy was fresh to start for Liverpool and subsequently set up the opener for Maxi.
03.03.2012, Lost 1 – 2 vs Arsenal at Anfield in the Premier League
Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard missed this fixture having been injured just 33 minutes into England’s friendly defeat to Holland. Stewart Downing and Dirk Kuyt also featured in the match, with the Duracell Dutchman’s 90 minutes in the midweek not stopping him repeating the feat for Liverpool over the weekend.
Jordan Henderson was perhaps Liverpool’s best outlet, and having had the week off, forced Laurent Koscielny into an own-goal following several other bright moments. Conversely however, Jamie Carragher, who had also been free of international action, could have been said to be at fault for both goals.
So there you have it. Looking at our victory against Chelsea, there does certainly seem to be a correlation between the more relaxed midweek friendlies that occurred before that result compared to the extremely mixed fortunes we had in the other post-international games.
For a club manager, he must dread losing his players to their countries for a week, especially with an important fixture coming up. Players can return to the club tired, distracted or even injured, and clubs are helpless to stop it.
As you can see though, Liverpool were given an extremely difficult set of fixtures that followed getting our players back from representing their countries, so perhaps not much can be taken from poor results against United and Arsenal, as well as the clichéd trip to the Britannia (at least it wasn’t a wet Wednesday!).
Therefore perhaps we can’t look to much into the effects on what would have been particularly tricky tests anyway.
Although there are more international games these days, these breaks are a reality that all top teams must face. As most teams will have a similar majority of their players away during these weeks, there really is no advantage given to one team over the other. We may not look forward to the international break, but there should be no reason why it would stop fans looking forward to Liverpool’s next game.
On to Sunderland, and kick starting our season in style.
And if it all goes wrong? Blame Roy Hodgson.