A break that still leaves Norwich City and Tottenham Hotspur short of time
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The closure of the transfer window feels like a lifetime ago – yet the last Premier League action stretches back two days further. And even without England making matters worse, it felt like a drag.
It’s also hard to imagine things didn’t feel as bad for some of the footballers left behind.
As far as Norwich City are concerned, it wasn’t so long ago that only one or two would enjoy an international call-up and the rest could carry on as normal.
Nowadays, as much as an entire starting XI is heading off here, there and everywhere for almost a fortnight. The amount of fingers crossed at Colney must have suffered a similar explosion in popularity.
Even for a nine-man side, a line-up for Ruddy, Whittaker, Martin, Olsson, Pilkington, Hoolahan, Snodgrass, Redmond, Elmander and Van Wolfswinkel – with Sebastien Bassong and Alex Tettey on stand-by – would do most Premier League clubs a treat.
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Bassong knows both sides of the fence – from Cameroon involvement, to the most recent international break with City’s stay-at-home squad members. And while you wouldn’t have to be a mind reader to suspect Seb would rather have been away with his compatriots preparing to face Libya, there are definite benefits to avoiding the long trip.
“It’s a bit weird because I used to be away with Cameroon, but I couldn’t go and I wasn’t ready to go anyway,” Bassong told me at Colney on Thursday. “So it’s just a bit quiet to be here when most of the team is away. But it’s nice and peaceful.”
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That it is – and it seems common place those players staying put for the break get a few days off for a bit of added R&R, which in itself admits the problem with the international dates: there is not a lot domestic managers can do to prepare for the next fixture. At league clubs, it’s basically dead time of limited use.
“I reckon all the managers struggle when there is an international break because you can’t really prepare for the next game,” added Bassong. “As soon as all the international players come back, they need to rest because they’ve played games and travelled. So we’re not all in training at the same time. We’re all just catching up on the Friday.
“You’ve got to get used to that rhythm of travelling because for myself, I used to travel to Cameroon and it’s a couple of hours away, and you’ve got to recover the quickest you can because you know you are going to have a tough challenge the next weekend. It’s a rhythm to get and you have to rest as much as you can. That’s the key. But as it is the same for all the teams, it’s all right.”
The final argument is one Chris Hughton also subscribes to.
But with such gaps in preparation, the current break will have been no help to City’s hopes of learning the best way to play together as a newly formed XI – and especially focusing on the best way to make the most of their newly formed striking options.
Yet arguably, the situation is not the same for Tottenham. It’s worse.
Their overhaul has ran deeper. They have the exit of one huge dollop of world-class quality they are trying to make up for.
And while every one of their summer transfer window recruits is a fantastic addition, the Spurs that will feature in a couple of months’ time will be a different proposition to what lies ahead this weekend.
So while it’s been two weeks since a Premier League ball has been kicked, it will probably feel like no time at all. And that’s arguably as slow as the top-flight will move all year.
Both City’s and Spurs’ task is to get where they think they should be as quickly as possible through the obstacles – starting this weekend.