Bristol City: The good and the bad of international break with national pride and scouting missions
The arrival of an international break is something that splits opinion among players, managers and fans.
For the first time this season, Bristol City’s season has come to a pause for an international break.
International matches usually take place at the start of September but because of the World Cup being in November and there being a desire to play fixtures before then, it has come at a later date.
The current break is mainly for European countries who will complete the 2022/23 UEFA Nations League with most teams having two games remaining.
There are other countries however who are preparing for the showpiece event by playing friendly matches, including Antoine Semenyo who is away with Ghana.
The Premier League and the Championship have come to a stop but the lower leagues continue on, but that won’t be the same for the World Cup. It will pause for some weeks but as we approach the knockouts, second tier football in England will resume, despite the tournament not being finished.
Here we take a look at the pros and cons of the latest international period
Nigel Pearson and his assistant Curtis Fleming attended an Oxford United match earlier this year and ended up signing Mark Sykes, who has become an important figure.
A list of targets will already have been drawn up of players in the lower leagues who could be within their price range for January or out of contract in the summer. City’s business under Pearson has mainly been players signed from the lower leagues.
Pearson is likely to take some break during this period but that doesn’t mean his staff won’t be looking at who can improve the squad.
Time to assess
This point can be taken one way or the other as on the back of two defeats, some players would have the desire to respond back immediately.
City can take great pride in how they closely matched two teams that were in the Premier League last season.
Their back-to-back defeats came after an unbeaten run so suffering two losses could have led to a drop off in confidence. A pause allows for time to reflect
There was talk earlier this week about Tommy Conway representing the Scotland senior team, that was before he even played for the Under-21’s. He’s been kept back for the time being but the fact it was being discussed shows the rise he’s had over the last few months.
Andi Weimann is another player that thanks to his form at City, has got himself back in contention for the international stage. A goal against World Cup winners France came in the summer and so the 31-year-old is becoming an important player once again under Ralf Rangnick.
World Cup ambitions
This will only apply to Antoine Semenyo as countries like Austria and Scotland failed to qualify, but this is a great opportunity for him to stake a claim for a World Cup spot.
A 24-man squad was named by Otto Ado in which Semenyo was included, despite the likes of Inaki Williams and Tariq Lampetey making the switch from Spain and England respectively.
Semenyo has only played once for Ghana and that came as a substitute but if he can perform against Brazil and Nicaragua then he will make a strong case to be a part of the squad in Qatar.
The injury situation is getting better now with just Ayman Benarous and Tomas Kalas on the sidelines with long-term injuries. Benarous suffered an ACL injury towards the end of last season whilst Kalas underwent surgery but has not been seen since.
City’s defence is still leaking goals in some matches and the return of Kalas could give a major boost to the back line. A few players had knocks and niggles and will do well with the rest afforded to them with no matches for a fortnight.
The risk of injuries
Injuries can happen at any point but when they happen on international duty, it’s that little more frustrating.
Nigel Pearson before Semenyo left for Ghana called for ‘common sense to prevail’ given they have been phasing him back into action. He hasn’t started a game yet this season and there is a hope that the Ghana FA will work loosely with City’s medical team to ensure he doesn’t aggravate an injury that sidelined him for a few months.
Conway managed to get through his first game unscathed against Northern Ireland and if he remains with the Under-21’s, he’ll return early next week. The matches are friendlies and so the intensity shouldn’t be as high so there isn’t as much risk on a full-blooded tackle when the stakes are higher.
Alex Scott is out in Spain with the Under-20’s competing in the Costa Calida Supercup and whilst it is a tournament, it isn’t an internationally recognised competition but there are multiple games to play with the first against Chile out of the way with the ‘Guernsey Grealish’ playing 80 minutes.
Max O’Leary is the other first-team player out on duty but he is unlikely to play a match and will serve as back-up for Southampton’s Gazin Bazunu. Goalkeeping injuries do prop up at times however but the Republic of Ireland man has so far kept clear of injuries.
Another tough test on return
It’s Queens Park Rangers at Ashton Gate when the action returns and whilst it’s only one point between them in the table, they will have some recovery time for players nursing any injuries.
Differing return dates
Players who have been on international duty will come back at a different time, having been in different countries. It means for some players, their role for the next match may be different to someone else. They might have to start from the substitutes bench or be limited to a certain amount of minutes.