Pre Season In Football- Indicative Of Things To Come Or Glorified Fitness Exercise?
It is that time of the season when players are getting back in their stride ahead of the new campaign that will be kicking off shortly next month across Europe. As such managers are testing out their hypotheses and theories on the pitch before the real action begins.
Head coaches are seen mulling over tactics and strategies for the upcoming season and players’ social media accounts are replete with their holiday trip to spend time with their near and dear ones before the gruelling schedule sets in once again.
As the pre-season continues across the continent while players and coaches alike draw plans for the upcoming start of the season, FootTheBall digs into the significance of the matches and training sessions that build anticipation for the forthcoming season of football.
PRE-SEASON – THE DRESS REHEARSAL BEFORE THE REAL ACTION BEGINS
A lot of football enthusiasts play the fantasy league available on the Premier League application named the ‘Fantasy Premier League’ that enables users to create their own teams of players in the English top-flight.
Over the course of the season, users earn points for the real-time performances of their players on the pitch, and the seasoned users of the application know that pre-season counts for very little when it comes to the team selection on Matchday 1 by managers.
The Fantasy Premier League preview provided by The Athletic also advises fans to not put much stock into the going-on during the pre-season to select their final fantasy team for Matchday 1.
This is true on two counts, first that managers are only tinkering with their squads as many of the marquee players join for pre-season at a later date than other fringe players who weren’t involved in international tournaments over the summer.
And the second point is that teams all over the continent are still somewhat in second gear during pre-season as the dust is still settling from the previous campaign with clubs analysing their modus operandi and looking for holes in them in order to plug them.
Therefore, performances in pre-season matches aren’t given much weight by fans and pundits alike. Players are not at peak fitness levels when the pre-season begins and are only in recovery mode during training sessions with clubs.
It is only as the start of the regular season approaches that things take a much more serious turn in training with both coaches and players focusing more and more on ironing out any errors or mistakes that they might be susceptible to committing during the real action.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF PRE-SEASON ACTIVITIES IN FOOTBALL
Pre-season in football can be compared to the rehearsals that take place for theatre plays where directors and actors fine tune their performances before the opening night when the final product is presented to the audience.
For instance, players like Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci, Federico Chiesa and Federico Bernardeschi – who were involved in Euro 2020 deep into the knockout stage as they won the quadrennial tournament – will return for pre-season on 2nd August, 2021.
And it will only be after their arrival that Juventus’ backline will take its shape for the beginning of the 2021-22 season with Chiellini and Bonucci slotting into the heart of defence as the Bianconeri get ready to challenge for the Serie A title.
Apart from players, managers also need some breathing space after the conclusion of the previous season and what better than the pre-season stretch in football. It can be said that it is the only time that managers can truly experiment with their sides without any significant consequences for the potential backfiring of their schemes and plans.
The worst thing that can happen to a team is a humiliating loss in one of their pre-season friendlies to a lower-ranked side. But usually managers are not lambasted for their sometimes quirky and eccentric decisions to give chances to players from the youth academy.
And more often than not, one or two players from the academy impress in pre-season outings and are consequently called up to the senior squad to act as understudy to the A-list players.
From this point of view, pre-season is indeed important for players who are budding to break into and make their mark in the first team.
This is because due to the absence of many senior squad members, managers are willing to test out their plans with academy football players who can seize the day to feature in the headlines if they perform brilliantly.
PRE-SEASON RESEMBLES RAW MATERIALS MORE THAN THE FINISHED PRODUCT
To arrive at a finished product, one must first acquire raw materials and process them in a definitive order to build the commodity that will be marketed to prospective buyers in the market.
In this sense, pre-season is akin to the numerous processes that are carried out in an industrial factory before the final finished product is supplied to be sold in various markets.
Head coaches can be compared to the foremen who keep an eye on the activities of the workers (who can be compared to the players) and both of them work in tandem to deliver the finished product on the opening match day of the domestic league to the fans and aficionados (who can be compared to prospective buyers).
Therefore, pre-season should be treated as an exercise or training drill rather than as the indicator of the actual performances and fortunes of a particular club in the season that follows. Unfortunately for fans of the Audi Cup and the gloriously named “International Champions Cup”, those trophies don’t matter at all in the grand scheme of things.