Roy Hodgson has taken a “massive risk” by selecting Jack Wilshere and Daniel Sturridge in his England squad for Euro 2016, according to a sports science expert.
The duo were controversial choices for the final squad due to their lack of playing time this season and injury record.
Wilshere started just one match for Arsenal all season and a detailed Euro 2016 Burnout Study shows that he managed only 253 minutes for club and country between July 1, 2015 and May 31, 2016, the third fewest of any player at the tournament.
Sturridge played 1,757 minutes.
“There’s a massive risk in selecting those two,” Professor Greg Whyte, director of performance at the Centre for Health and Human Performance in London, said.
“Why has Wilshere only played 253 minutes? Because he gets injured at the drop of a hat. That’s only got to happen in game one and that’s him out of the tournament.
“Equally, the England management will have looked at a benefit-to-risk analysis — that he is such a great player that if they can keep him on the pitch, or bring him on for short episodes to change the game, then obviously that’s going to be a real benefit to the team.”
Whyte also highlighted another reason why Wilshere and Sturridge could be risky choices.
“They may be thinking to themselves ‘do I deserve to be in this squad?’ and because they’re fresh, they come out and their work-rate is enormous in that first game — they overcompensate,” he said.
“And by overcompensating, they fatigue much quicker, and the risk of injury rises with fatigue. If they’re trying too hard it can be counter-productive.
“So those two players have to be managed very, very carefully to reduce that risk of their selection.”
The Burnout Study, using data available on the soccerway.com website, counted the minutes played in major competitions in the 2015-16 season by all 552 players set to be involved at Euro 2016.
It found that the four players with most minutes on the clock all played in England — Chris Smalling, top of the chart with 5,472 minutes, Simon Mignolet, Nathaniel Clyne and Chris Gunter — but Smalling and Clyne were the only two England players inside the top 20.
Collectively, England had only racked up the fourth-highest total of minutes — 81,319 compared to hosts France whose total was 86,115.
The lack of a mid-season break is often cited as a reason for England’s failure at major tournaments, but Whyte — a two-time Olympian in modern pentathlon and formerly director of research for the British Olympic Association Ì1 believes the Burnout Study demonstrates the limited value of the rest period.
“If you look at the countries that are really going to be in contention — Spain, Portugal, Germany, France, Belgium — when you look at the data the English aren’t really any different to the other strong nations,” he said.
“There’s almost a bit of dogma which has surrounded this mid-season break. It tends to suggest that with a mid-season break players are playing less, whereas the data doesn’t actually bear that out.
“What it does bear out is that those European countries (which do have a break) are even denser in their playing because they have got this three-week break, so it could be counter-productive.
“If there is a value to a mid-season break then probably the value may be more psychological than physiological.
“When I looked at that data I didn’t see the disparity, this gaping chasm, between the European game and the English game.
“So the argument that burnout, under-performance, is associated with playing minutes in a season, simply doesn’t hold true with that data.
“It doesn’t support the idea that England are at a disadvantage to anyone else.
“There are three (English or Welsh) players in the top four but then no others in the top 20.
“You could look at that group and say ‘oh look, (Cristiano) Ronaldo is right down at the bottom’, but he’s down at the bottom of the top 20 players in the whole of the European Championship so he’s playing a huge number of minutes as well.
“There’s this misconception that some of the great players of other nations are being protected, but this data simply doesn’t bear that out.”
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