Should all Arsenal’s German internationals have been given so much time off?
07:08 21 August 2014
It’s become a popular guessing game in recent weeks: when might one of Arsenal’s World Cup winners actually pull on a Gunners shirt again?
Nothing has been seen of Mesut Ozil, Per Mertesacker or Lukas Podolski since that July evening when the trio – well, two of them, anyway – helped Germany to regain their place at the summit of world football.
It would have been extremely churlish for Arsenal not to reward the players’ efforts with an extended break in the aftermath of the World Cup. That said, was it really out of the question for any of them to return to action before now?
Gunners boss Arsene Wenger clearly thinks so, complaining that the start of the Premier League programme should have been delayed by another week to enable his players to complete their recovery.
“The final of the World Cup was on July 13, the start of the Premier League season is August 16,” said Wenger. “If you want to give some holiday to the players, your preparation becomes very short.
“We could have done with one week later, with all the competitions. If you don’t give players enough holiday, or enough build-up in their preparation and play them straight away, then they get injured.
“For example you have [Brazil’s] Thiago Silva and David Luiz, who came back a bit earlier and played straight away. Thiago Silva is out for a month, Luiz is injured as well.
“In FIFA rules, you have to give four weeks’ holiday to the players. I have had the experience of post-World Cup years and they are always difficult to get everyone back to the same level, mentally and physically.”
It is hard to argue with Wenger’s analysis with regard to Ozil, who featured in all his country’s matches in Brazil and was undoubtedly a key figure in their eventual triumph.
Mertesacker, who has since retired from international football, was also heavily involved in Germany’s success, even though he only came on for the closing stages of extra time in the final against Argentina.
And then there was Podolski. His last competitive action came on June 26, as a late substitute in Germany’s final group match against the USA – eight weeks ago.
How can he possibly have merited that length of absence? Surely his lack of football at the World Cup should have made more involvement in Arsenal’s pre-season schedule desirable, not less?
Wenger’s policy on Podolski looks thoroughly bizarre when you consider that French trio Mathieu Debuchy, Laurent Koscielny and Olivier Giroud were all involved in the last eight of the World Cup – as was Costa Rica’s Joel Campbell.
Yet all those players featured in the Emirates Cup tournament at the start of the month, and the Community Shield and – apart from Campbell, who was an unused substitute – against Crystal Palace last weekend.
Another World Cup winner, Andre Schurrle, played and scored for Chelsea in their Premier League opener at Burnley earlier this week.
And Martin Demichelis, a member of the Argentina side defeated in the World Cup final, played the entire game for Manchester City in their 2-0 win at Newcastle on Sunday.
Footballers used to play twice a week on a regular basis and think nothing of it. Now it seems that even once in almost two months is too arduous a task for some.