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Counting the cost of the international break

To Premier League and Championship clubs, the September international break is football’s version of adverts only 10 minutes into a TV programme. At the very moment the season is beginning to feel like we all remember it to be, it’s ripped out from underneath us for 10 days and we’re not always sure if we’ll like what we see on the other side.

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Players either return from some refreshing time off, or in varying states of fitness after travelling on international duty. In the brief time before the next round of games, clubs are often left literally ‘counting the cost’ of injuries within the squad, given some absences are more damaging than others.

The chart below does just this. Instead of merely counting the number of players each Premier League team has injured, we have assessed the expense of individual injuries as a proportion of the squad’s total value, broken down by comparing those sustained before and during the international break.

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Whilst public-access injury data is imperfect, the chart at least gives us an estimate for the cost of the international break to the 20 Premier League clubs (recognising that not all injuries during the break were sustained whilst on international duty).

The average Premier League team currently has 16% of the value of its squad out injured. Unfortunately for West Brom, 13% of their squad value picked up injuries during the break to add to the 11% already out. Some clubs – including Everton, Aston Villa and West Ham – had players with pre-existing injuries, and will be glad that the situation has not deteriorated ahead of upcoming fixtures.

In a post-World Cup season, injuries can come both as one-off incidents and as an accumulation of fatigue, so it would be foolish and not constructive to assign blame for absences. Equally, international breaks can provide a chance for already-injured players to recover.

Nevertheless, given the opportunity to regroup before the next sprint of games, assigning a dollar-value to squad availability can enable clubs to get a fuller perspective on the status of the first team. Reacting to a simple tally count of injured players can lead to clouded decision-making; tracking the value-availability of players over time is a way of measuring the impact of your sidelined talent.

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