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Does the international break disrupt the momentum of in-form clubs?

We analyse the performances of a select group of clubs over the years, post-international breaks and try to make sense of it all.


England v Spain - International Friendly : News Photo

Let us start off with some basic physics, shall we? (Don’t worry, this is no exam and I promise not to lecture you!)

Sir Isaac Newton’s first law of motion had something to do with change, which effectively implied this: “Inertia is the property of an object to resist any change in its current state – whether it is in motion or stationary.”

Now what does this have to do with football, you ask? Allow me to explain. Imagine cruising at top speed on the highway and a toll booth pops up out of nowhere causing you to brake.

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It is that time of the football calendar now – the dreaded international break - when every club fan is wishing for days to pass by sooner and the normalcy of weekend (and midweek) games to resume in full swing.

In analogous terms, the football world was in a state of inertia before the international break came up on it.

To go back to our car example (yes, I am still on it!) – regaining the same speed that you were driving at before the forced toll break will take a few seconds, if not more, depending on various factors.

Similarly, the restart of league football across Europe may or may not have an effect on the form of clubs who went into the break at their peak.

The international break worries

Be it friendly games or qualifiers for the Euros / World Cup, this round of games often causes jitters among fans due to injury concerns.

The list from the ongoing break does not make for pretty reading - Hector Bellerin, Diego Costa, Eden Hazard and Wayne Rooney are all reported to be injured and these are just a few of the high-profile names on the casualty list.

There are still a few days left before those on international duty return to their bases, as fans and managers of clubs sweat over their players’ fitness.

The second biggest concern is form/momentum; some clubs go on a winning/unbeaten streak for a series of games preceding the break. However, the fortnight of inaction that follows at the league level is oft suspected to have an adverse impact in the immediate aftermath of return to club football.

It is to be noted that the Bundesliga teams play 4 games fewer than the others, owing to the fact that the German top division includes only 18 clubs as opposed to 20 in England, Spain and Italy.

In this article, we assess the performances of a select group of in-form / top clubs across the Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga and the Serie A, and delve deep to understand if the fortnight’s break indeed disrupts their momentum.


The Leagues

Over the past 5 seasons, across all the clubs under consideration from the four leagues, the teams averaged 4.1 points in the 2 games immediately preceding the break.
The interesting point, however, is that the average was 4.2 points over the course of the two games that followed the break.

Average points from the couple of games pre and post break over the past 5 seasons

LeaguesBefore break (average points 2011/12 – 2015/16)After break (average points 2011/12 – 2015/16)
La Liga4.64.7
Serie A4.04.3
Bundesliga4.34.2
EPL3.83.8
Overall4.14.2

The Bundesliga clubs saw a marginal dip to 4.2 points from 4.3, over two games after and before the break respectively while the top two from Italy improved their points tally to 4.3 from 4.0 after the internationals.

The 3 biggies from the La Liga slightly improved on their performances to 4.7 over the two games after vs. 4.6 during the two games prior to the break.The 6 Premier League teams averaged 3.8 points in the couple of games leading up to the internationals and maintained the same in the two games succeeding the break. 

Also Read: International Friendly: England 2-2 Spain - Five Talking Points

When the points averaged between 3-5 games prior to and after the international breaks over the five seasons are taken into account, we came across an interesting insight – the league averages are higher after the break by at least one point, and by 2 points or more in the case of La Liga and Serie A teams under consideration.

Average of three-five games before and after the break over 5 seasons

LeaguesBefore break (average points 2011/12 – 2015/16)After break (average points 2011/12 – 2015/16)
La Liga9.211.3
Serie A8.610.6
Bundesliga8.59.6
EPL7.58.5
Overall8.29.6
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