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30/03/2007 No.10
Kevin Pullein
Friday March 30, 2007
  Don't believe the gripes - the big four do not suffer when their players come back from national duty

The top clubs achieve better results after international matches than they do at other times. It is the opposite of what you might expect if you have spent years listening to Arsène Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson complaining about players returning tired from international duty, with little time or energy left with which to prepare for the following weekend's Premiership fixture.

1st April is not a good time - despite what some people will inevitably say - for Blackburn to be playing Manchester United or for Watford to be playing Chelsea. In truth there is rarely, if ever, a good time for any club to be playing such opponents.

The top clubs sometimes say that the Football Association and other international bodies should pay them for taking their stars away for such prolonged periods. It is arguable, however, that the top clubs should be paying the governing bodies because, despite all the assertions to the contrary, their stars are more effective when they come back than they were before they went away.

Take Manchester United. The figures that follow all relate to the last 10 Premiership seasons. When the next game after an international match was in the Premiership, Manchester United won 76% of the time. In other Premiership games they won 63% of the time. From post-international Premiership fixtures, Manchester United averaged 2.45 points. From other Premiership fixtures they averaged 2.10 points.

It was a similar story at Chelsea. After internationals Chelsea won 67% of their Premiership games. At other times they won 56% of their Premiership games. Their points-per-game averages were 2.25 after internationals and 1.90 at other times.

And it proved the same for Arsenal, albeit on a lesser scale. If the team's performances suffer after international programmes, as Wenger often laments, their results do not. After internationals Arsenal won 62% of their Premiership games, compared with 60% at other times.

Liverpool, who face Arsenal at Anfield tomorrow, are the only team in the current top four who did not achieve better results after internationals than they did on other occasions - and their results were not dramatically worse.

It may be inconvenient for top clubs to lose players for nearly two weeks several times a season but it does not seem to be doing them any harm. If anything, players are benefiting from the experience.


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