I used to have a thing about international breaks and especially the Africa Cup of Nations but you know what? I’m over it.
Don’t get me wrong, I still think FIFA and these international breaks are nothing more than a form of nationalistic onanism. Nothing more than a way for people who love their country to celebrate themselves and their favorite players; wonderful humans like John Terry and Joey Barton. But what I’ve come to realize is that, at least when it comes to the Africa Cup of Nations, having the players go away to a tournament in January isn’t much a of physical drain.
Take Gervinho as the example. The Ivorian last played for Arsenal on 1 January against Southampton. It was 17 minutes of football total. According to transfermarkt.co.uk Gervinho’s next match was for Ivory Coast on the 14th of January, a friendly against Egypt in which he played 90 minutes and scored twice.
Gervinho’s challenger for the left forward role at Arsenal is Lukas Podolski. The German played 56 minutes against Southampton as well, and in the same two weeks that Gervinho was on vacation in Africa also played in an FA Cup match against Swansea (19 minutes) and a League match against Man City (56 minutes).
If you’re keeping count, Gervinho played 107 minutes in the first two weeks of January and Podolski played 131.
Gervinho then played in three ACN games in relatively quick succession taking his total minutes played in the period from 1 January to 3 February to 377 (360 ACN + 17 AFC). Podolski, meanwhile, completed just two full games (v. Brighton and Liverpool) and totaled 335 minutes in the same period (he had two subs).That puts Gervinho playing a whopping 42 minutes more than Podolski.
But in that same period, Theo Walcott has played 652 minutes. Theo played all but one minute of every League game this calendar year (Southampton, Man City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Stoke: 449 minutes) and in all three of Arsenal’s FA Cup appearances (Swansea, Swansea, Brighton: 203 minutes).
That means that in the same period that Gervinho was off getting “tired” playing for the Ivory Coast, Theo Walcott was playing in two competitions for Arsenal and totaling 235 more minutes than the Ivorian. And even if we were to remove the unnecessary FA Cup replay from our calculations, Walcott still played 185 more minutes than Gervinho, two whole games.
And that’s the same for all the Arsenal players. Wilshere played 653 minutes, Giroud played 607 minutes, and Cazorla 546 minutes.
Maybe there should be a European Cup of Nations in February? Some of the Arsenal players could use the rest.