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The science and thinking behind rotation by Rafa Benitez

7 years ago

When should Rafa Benitez rotate the team and when is it better to leave well alone ?

While contemplating my navel here in sunny France, I read several topics on The Mag regarding the latest home defeat to Wolves and began to wonder whether squad rotation is a part of the problem ?

So I investigated further and found these two sites.

Strangely enough the first comes from the great man himself and if you care to read, it gives a number of reasons why squad or team rotation is deemed to be a good idea.

Why should you rotate players in squads which have a high number of matches?

The first reason is to prevent overload in the number of minutes played. It is commonly agreed that the players who play the most minutes are at a bigger risk of injury, especially injuries which occur due to fatigue (Lazarus & Folkman 1984)

“Mick McCarthy was criticised for fielding virtually a Reserve team because he had heard Ancelotti say that the risk of injury in a match is 10% but rises to 30-40% in the following match if there is less than 3 days recovery from the preceding match. We don’t know exactly how much the risk increases but we do know that it does increase and you have to take it into account”

The second reason is the decrease in physical performance, especially in high intensity, which comes from playing 2 or 3 matches in one week.The main physical difference between teams at the top level and the rest is in the capacity of their players to cover the most metres in high intensity.

The loss of energy of some players can have very negative effects on team performance and this can be avoided if you field fresher players, both physically and mentally.

The third reason is to create competition within the squad. It’s obvious that players want to play every game and although at first they have difficulty coming to terms with having to rest, they end up understanding it and even asking to rest, once they realise the importance of the rotation system in winning trophies.

So far so good for the “rotationists”, yet when I looked at the stats for Matt Ritchie, (NUFC’s stand out player this season) in his previous Championship campaign with Bournemouth, I was surprised to find that not only did Matt play 46 games in the promotion winning side of 2014/15 but that a large number of his colleagues featured heavily in the high end 30+ games column as well.

In fact no fewer than 10 players started in 38 games or more during Eddie Howe’s promotion winning campaign

Ritchie, Matt     MF Right-midfield    46

Cook, S     DF Centre-back    46

Elphick     DF Centre-back    46

Wilson, C     FW Striker        45

Arter         MF Box2Box MFr    43

Daniels, C     DF Left-back        42

Francis, S     DF Right-back        42

Pugh, M     MF Left-midfield    42

Surman, A     MF Midfield         41

Kermorgant     MF Attacking MF/St    38

That represents almost an entire team except for a keeper and Boruc arrived in September 2014 and still managed 37 games in the whole season.

So the point of this article is to open the debate about squad rotation especially when considering the benefits of keeping a tight knit, successful winning team together at the expense of dissatisfied fringe players attempting to gain a spot in the first team XI.

As always, we trust in Rafa!



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