It seems like every transfer window, there’s at least one high profile example of a player changing clubs for an astronomical fee, only to wind up injured and out of the team weeks later.
This year, that was Ousmane Dembélé and Renato Sanchez, both players who have rarely featured for their new clubs due to injury problems.
Why does it seem that these types of problems happen more often than not, and is there anything we can do as coaches to help prevent situations like this from occurring in the future?
While most people have heard of Team Periodization, the term Individual Periodization is not commonly used and is often neglected in team sports. This is when the training load and session planning is modified for different players depending on different circumstances.
Many coaches engage in a broader version of this when they have an easy recovery session the day after a game for players who played 70+ minutes, and a more intense training session for the players who did not.
When might we want to engage in Individual Periodization, and how can we implement it without disrupting the session or upsetting the player?
The following circumstances are good grounds to implement Individual Periodization:
A player transferring from a new league or team with a different playing style.
A youth player who has just joined the first team
A player who is playing on multiple teams (National Team + Club Duty)
A player who is unfit or returning from an injury
In each case, we must determine whether the player will be experiencing an overload in volume or intensity, and adjust their role in our training accordingly.
For instance, a player playing with their national team in addition to their club team is experiencing an overload in volume; where-as a player joining the first team from the youth side will experience an overload in intensity.
Let’s use the example of a player running on a treadmill to understand intensity and volume.
A youth player plays football at 10 mph. He can do this for 75 minutes before he feels fatigued. When he moves to the first team, football will be played at 15 mph. Should we expect that he can maintain playing at 15 mph for 75 minutes, when his body is only used to 10 mph?
Probably not without risking injury.
When a player experiences a new stressor (increased intensity), we must inversely adjust the volume to allow the body to compensate.
In the example above, it would be a good idea to allow the youth player to train for 60 minutes for a week or two before gradually increasing him to 75 minutes.
When players change leagues, they will experience a new playing style within their new team, AND a new playing style within the league they are joining.
A great example of this is Renato Sanches moving from Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga to Swansea City in the Premier League.
Sanches went from the Bundesliga, a league that is very tactical and methodical, to the Premier League, a league that has a very open /end-to-end style.
Bayern Munich are a team that typically have the ball 70% of the game, which means less defensive actions and less transitional actions. This differs vastly compared to Swansea City, a team that typically has 35-40% possession.
It’s no wonder that even if Sanches experienced the exact same training volume at Swansea City, he would have a tough time adapting to a new stressor and a new intensity, which would likely have contributed to his injury problems.
When we plan Individual Training within our Team Training, we can reduce intensity for the player by allowing them to play as a neutral (joker) player for part of the time.
We can reduce volume without impacting the team by removing them from the final 5/10 minutes of the large sided game.
It's important that as coaches, we are always scanning for situations like these arising within the team and that we are able to adjust our plans accordingly, without jeopardizing the player or blaming the external circumstances.
Matt Danaher is the Creator of SoccerPulse. You can follow him at Twitter @mattdanaher