When discussing Sunday’s F.A. Cup match away to Shrewsbury Town, West Ham United manager David Moyes said that one of the things he needed to take into account when selecting his team would be the effect of fatigue on the players.
With such a heavy schedule in the last seven days, several players have fallen to injury; while others will be carrying minor knocks picked up during the two league matches against West Bromwich Albion and Tottenham Hotspur.
With José Fonte now progressing through the appropriate stages of rehabilitation following his ankle surgery, and Sam Byram currently working his way back to fitness after a thigh injury, David will be keen to minimise the risks of anyone else picking up an injury on F.A. Cup duty.
It has already been reported that David is considering using some of the younger players in the Hammers squad for the Shrewsbury game; many of whom will surely benefit from the experience of playing in one of the most famous cup competitions around.
On that note, it will be a day to look forward to for some of the Hammers up and coming young professionals.
Balancing youth and experience is always a tricky match to make. Many coaches feel that you can only introduce one or two youngsters at a time and that making wholesale changes can significantly weaken a team.
David Moyes himself stated in a recent interview on the club website that he is a great believer in continuity; but acknowledges that there are times in football when other factors need to be taken into account.
One of these is fatigue; which David referred to earlier in the week, and often the secret in managing this lies in recognising the difference between a player who is just tired (perhaps after recently returning from injury such as Chicharito for example) and one who is genuinely suffering from fatigue in the true sense of the word.
Fatigue, in the physiological sense, tends to occur in the later stages of the game as the body’s glycogen stores begin to deplete; leading to reduced work capacity, decreased running distances and a general overall reduction in high-intensity activity (Reilly and Gilbourne, 2003; Mohr et al, 2003; Hoff, 2005).
Fatigue directly affects the muscles, ligaments and other structures in the body while at the same time impairing stability of the joints (Ortiz et al, 2010); and this partially explains why most injuries tend to occur in the second half of the game when the body’s natural sensors are not responding as quickly as they should be.
The classic sign of a footballer struggling with fatigue is somebody playing with the socks rolled down to the ankles.
This is because the body is trying to get more nutrients to the muscles, and tight socks restrict the circulation and make it feel as though the muscle is wanting to ‘cramp-up’. This is often followed by a painful muscular spasm that forces the player to have to stop and stretch.
Sometimes the intensity of this spasm makes it impossible for the player to properly stretch without assistance. We’ve all seen players suffering from cramp having their calf muscles stretched; sometimes by another player, and often from someone in the opposing team until the medical staff arrive.
Severe cramp can be extremely painful; and the associated spasm can often lead to a strain; since tired or fatigued muscles are more likely to be injured; particularly in the later stages of the game (Reilly et al, 2008).
At that point the body’s energy sources are almost depleted, and if someone tries to play on despite severe cramps then a muscular strain is almost certain to occur as a result.
It’s essential therefore in weeks like this to manage the squad as best as possible; using the rotation system favoured by many coaches if that’s what it takes, and avoid putting too much of a strain on tired legs!
David will have all this in mind, but will be trying to strike that essential balance by making just the right number of changes to allow people to recover from the last two games but without disrupting the continuity he clearly favours.
So on that basis we may see the likes of Reece Oxford, Domingos Quina, Reece Burke, Josh Cullen, Sead Hacšabanović and Toni Martínez against Shrewsbury; or he may decide to stick with those who have performed so well in the past week.
As always, he’ll keep everyone guessing; but whatever way David decides to go, whether with youth or experience, will be the result of careful consideration and planning for the week ahead.
There’s more to come after Sunday!
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Mohr M, Krustrup P, Bangsbo J (2003). Match performance of high-standard soccer players with special reference to the development of fatigue. Journal of Sports Sciences. Vol. 21; 519 – 528.
Ortiz A, Olson S, Entyre B, Trudelle-Jackson EE, Bartlett W, Venegas-Rios, Heidi L (2010). Fatigue effects on knee joint stability during two jump tasks in women. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. Vol. 24 (4); 1019 – 1027.
Reilly T, Gilbourne D (2003). Science and football; a review of applied research in the football codes. Journal of Sports Sciences. Vol. 21 (9). 693 – 705.
Reilly T, Drust B, Clark N (2008). Muscle fatigue during football match-play. Sports Medicine. Vol. 38 (5); 357 – 367.