Cesc Shows Lop-Sided Injury Rules Must Change
International breaks rarely raise a smile on the face of Arsene Wenger, injuries forcing a grimace as he welcomes his squad back to the fold with precious little time to right wrongs on the Arsenal training pitches.
This time around, an unnerving element has taken over. Cesc Fabregas, unavailable for his club for a number of weeks, has recovered in time to take part in Spain’s Euro2012 qualifying campaign. It is entirely coincidental, the Arsenal captain admitting via his ‘official’ twitter page that had the Chelsea match taken place on Tuesday night, he would have been fit. The logic, with which it is hard to disagree, was that better he recover properly than rush back a couple of days earlier and incur more lasting damage.
There is however something very wrong in him being called into the Spanish squad though. If a player is deemed to be withheld by his club from international duty, Fifa has the right and does, suspend individuals for up to the next three club games. If the club says he is unfit, the national FAs have the right to insist that he be assessed by their own medical staff. There is nothing wrong in that process. Except the FAs show an irresponsibility towards players welfare. Notably this summer, Nicklas Bendtner played for Denmark, requiring treatment between matches to ensure he could do a little more than walk around the pitch. They succeeded in getting the striker through his World Cup matches, admirably denying his employers his services thus far this season.
The imbalance in the favour of international football in these circumstances is striking. Arsenal should by rights be able to deny players who have been unfit for a number of weeks to the respective countries. For example, they ought to be able to insist that Cesc be allowed to rest, recuperate and be fit for them in ten days time against Birmingham. It is a selfish ideology but so is the current set-up. Surely it is the players best long-term interests – and therefore those of club and country – for resolution to his hamstring problem to be complete. A quick fix now may mask longer-term issues. Abou Diaby has apparently missed training for France; will he recover fully before their matches in the next week or is it better that he be excused international duty, for the longer term good.
Fifa and Uefa have long extolled the virtues of having the players best interests at heart. It is this, not money, that drives their footballing policies. Except no-one believes them with The Confederations Cup and World Club Cup (or whatever crappy title they want to give it) prime examples of money overruling commonsense. There are unscrupulous managers who would seek to bend the system to their will but not using players in matches prior to internationals is detrimental to their clubs so enforcement of a more balanced policy would not be too difficult.
Other brighter news for Wenger is the imminent return – well, three weeks according to Bryan Flynn – to full training of Aaron Ramsey. A big moment, physically and psychologically. We saw the impact that it had on Eduardo, niggling injuries and the spark dimmed in his play for some time. Hopefully Arsenal and Wenger will have learned lessons from that rehabilitation and reintroduction to first team football, ensuring that the Welshman lives up to his as of yet unrealised potential.