Ahead of Premier League Gameweek 13, the Analyst and Pundit hash out the impact of international form on club performance. Does one hand wash the other?
That’s it. Finished. Concluded. Wrapped up.
Euro 2016 qualification is done and dusted and aside from those pesky pre-tournament friendlies that crop up around March, Premier League managers are free to get back down to the knitty-gritty of the domestic game.
Managers, both in reality and fantasy sports, have often viewed international football as at best an irritant and at worst a roadblock to their ambitions of glory. As if country versus country competition was merely a scheme to lay injury and wreak havoc on their players’ performance.
Alex Ferguson was one such international skeptic.
But shouldn’t managers place stock on international form?
The current trend among pundits, fans and managers to view form as distinctly separate across different competitions – domestic cups, European football and Premier League – is a flawed stance in my opinion and overarching player performance across this spread of contests should really carry more weight.
If you’re labeling Sir Alex Ferguson an international football doubter like my good self, then I’m suddenly in good company!
In football, you can’t underestimate the difference in dressing room mentalities from club to country, or even from game to game within that same team.
Certain players will be big big names when they go away with their national teams but when the international break is done they’re back to being a bit part player or a non-starter for their clubs.
That’s just the nature of the beast.
Allow me hold Jonathan Walters up as an example.
This underrated player typified the brutally effective pre-Hughes Stoke City, but has found himself on the margins of the side this season.
Walters was at the very heart of his country’s heroic qualification campaign which culminated in victory on Monday night. The Scouse-born Ireland international bagged a brace to defeat Bosnia & Herzegovina 2-0 and book the Irish on a flight to France next summer.
When Walters has started – just seven games this season – Stoke have got a result in all but one game, a 1-0 defeat to Liverpool. Without him in the starting XI they’ve lost three. Deployed as a centre-forward, the 32 year old has scored twice and contributed one assist – yet he remains one of the most expendable members of this side.
Contract talks and Stoke’s quest for more aesthetic football this season has seen Walters play this cameo role, but I feel that his international displays must now be taken into account by both his coach and potential fantasy selectors.
By your token, every fantasy managers out there should be stumping up for somebody like Kyle Laffery just because he scored seven goals for Northern Ireland in qualification.
The guy hasn’t kicked a ball in anger at Norwich City this season and they’re hardly falling down with talented strikers.
This goes back to what I was saying. Club managers know their players inside out, they know what they can and can’t do. They get in the team on merit but that just isn’t the case on the international scene.
Players of a certain standing should get increased consideration though.
I’m not suggesting that PlayON managers topload their teams with the Laffertys and Jedinaks of this world, but Walters, Delle Alli, Son Heung-min and Gerard Deulofeu all could be explored as options going into Gameweek 13, and their international showings should stand to them in that regard.
Delle Alli and Son did very well for England and South Korea over the break. I’d imagine that they’ll get a selection boost now in PlayON this weekend, but that is rightly down to what they’ve been doing consistently for Spurs in the league.
Good international performances are a nice bonus for the player involved and gives an extra bit of confidence. Not much more than that.
If your old cat can catch a few lame birds every now and then that’s all well and good, it doesn’t mean he can take down the big mice now does it? Catch my drift?