Are they really tired?
This weekend being an FA Cup weekend talk in the media turned to teams playing weakened sides and not valuing the cup. Using the congested fixture list as an excuse and sighting tired players is not uncommon now days. Liverpool came under scrutiny for this as they made ten changes to their starting line-up. Liverpool’s manager Jürgen Klopp, did say in his pre-match interview that some of his players had covered 17KMs in the previous game and they had played 9 games in 20 days. Basically he believes his players are becoming if not already fatigued and the changes are not due to a lack of respect for or desire to win the FA Cup. It seems to me that fatigue is increasingly being used as an excuse for putting out a “reserve” side. Regular readers of this blog will know I like football. So it won’t come as a big surprise that I like to listen to 606 on BBC Radio 5 on Saturday and Sunday evenings. It was the Saturday presenters of this programme, Darren Fletcher and Robbie Savage, who pointed out that full strength teams where always fielded in days gone bye when pitches where more likely to have massive mud patches and so took more out of the legs. Back then teams regularly played two games a week and teams below the Premiership still do today. Nobody below the Premiership today or in the top flight back in the 70’s or 80’s ever complained of needing a rest. So you have to ask yourself, why in a time when top flight footballers are fitter than ever is fatigue a problem? I can’t remember the exact words but Darren Fletcher posed a question along the lines of “are we being brainwashed with the fatigue thing?” At first I couldn’t think why anyone would want to do that. I’m sure all players, managers and fans want their team to start every game with the strongest eleven and going for the win. Since listening to that programme it has occurred to me that maybe this is a self-fulfilling prophecy brought about by technology. Due to technology, it is only in recent times that football managers have been informed by their fitness staff of the distances covered per game by individual players. So the manager is told “player A has in the last two weeks covered 17Km per game for four games. That’s 68Km plus training, he must be in need of a rest”. Why wouldn’t the manager think player A needs resting. Similarly when player A is told the same thing the suggestion is implanted in his subconscious that he must be in need of a rest because of the distance he’s covered recently and he may actually feel the fatigue in his legs. The more he is told he needs a rest the stronger this suggestion becomes. To the point where if asked by the manager how he’s feeling he will honestly tell him that he feels fatigued. In this scenario he’s not lying, wrong but not lying, he genuinely believes he is fatigued. The truth is more likely to be that he is not fatigued and he has covered these distances because of high fitness levels. In reality he is capable of much more than he believes. This of course, will have a knock on affect in the future. Every time he plays four games in two weeks, he knows he should feel fatigued and so will feel fatigued. Self-fulfilling prophecies’ can be a terrible thing.