Finally, the international break is over.
And, surprisingly enough, this one didn't turn out to be the apocalypse.
For a full recap of how Liverpool's internationals did during the break, head over to oh you beauty, where nate's got a rundown of all the regular first-teamers who took part in their nation's senior squads. There were also plenty of younger players taking part in qualifying and/or friendlies for their respective age brackets, and there's notes on them at the official site.
All things considered, it wasn't a complete disaster of a break. Boring as hell, yes, but aside from the injury to Dirk Kuyt and the trauma inflicted on Pepe Reina, it was a week that passed largely without incident. The biggest concern for me is always the players' health---the loss of Kuyt is a decent-size blow, but with so many players in action, it almost feels like a resounding success to only have one go down.
The performances of the squad members on the whole was encouraging enough, with Reina as the only regular who played below expectation (maybe due to playing the first 45 minutes for the national side in months after traveling 7000 miles against the 5th-ranked team in the world with a defense that didn't exactly set the place on fire). Both Steven Gerrard and Glen Johnson played every minute of England's two victories, with the former pushing his way into the discussion about becoming the permanent captain for the Three Lions. Kuyt scored the opener for the Dutch, Raul Meireles notched one in the 4-4 draw with Cyprus and played the entirety of both matches, and Daniel Agger and Christian Poulsen logged full 90's in Denmark's 1-0 win over Iceland, with the latter captaining the side.
Maybe the biggest issue to arise out of the week, as pointed out by nate via the link above, is that many of the first-team regulars played a large number of minutes. In a squad that's starved for depth in quality, you'd hope that the change in days for the fixtures provides enough of a cushion to allow for a full recovery. Kuyt's injury exacerbates that concern, even if it might open the door for Dani Pacheco or force Roy Hodgson to experiment with the squad a bit.
There was also news that David Ngog's injury was enough to lead the squad to withdraw him from the French U21 squad, as well as news that Fabio Aurelio had a problem with his achilles. Worryingly familiar stuff for the Brazilian left back, and likely pointing to a Sunday start for Paul Konchesky. With Ngog possibly a question, that places the burden squarely on the shoulders of Fernando Torres, who scored twice for Spain and thankfully only logged 57 minutes during the week.
Again, it wasn't the worst of breaks for Liverpool, but I think it does put the spotlight on questions about the squad's depth. Kuyt's injury might not pose huge problems in the wide area, but he was one of the more adaptable players up top with proven experience, and with him out for at least four weeks, I think Hodgson is going to be stretched a bit in his squad selection.
Maybe it provides more minutes for Ryan Babel and Dani Pacheco across the front four, maybe it pushes Joe Cole wide, or maybe we see Maxi slide in and nothing else changes. With seven matches in those four weeks that Kuyt's missing, though, I'd guess (and hope) we see a little bit of everything.
I'll be back tomorrow with an early preview for Sunday's match---I'm away on Saturday at a college football (American football---gasp!) game, and in the Midwest that's an all-day affair. Also an all-day drunk. So yeah, I won't be around.
Have a good one.