Sarina Wiegman concerned about England’s congested schedule

Sarina Wiegman concerned about England’s congested schedule

England boss Sarina Wiegman lamented the congested football calendar after naming a 23-player squad to kick-start the Lionesses’ preparations for the upcoming Euro 2025 qualifiers.

The headline news was that captain Leah Williamson will return to the Lionesses for the first time after a ten-month absence following an ACL injury. However, the international fixture schedule raises concern for Wiegman.

After failing to reach the Nations League finals and earn qualification for the 2024 Paris Olympics, England face a summer without a tournament for the first time since 2020. Players like Lucy Bronze and Rachel Daly have played three international tournaments back-to-back: 2021 Olympics, 2022 Euros and 2023 World Cup.

Not qualifying for the Olympics gives the Lionesses an element of rest, but the FIFA windows scheduled during June and July still pose a concern for Wiegman who is worried that the calendar is far too congested, denying her players the chance at proper rest.

“So far [the calendar] looks similar as last last year, so I’m very worried about that,” she said.

The women’s international schedule has a camp from May 27 to June 4, with two games scheduled, and another two are set for July 8–16. The Olympics run from July 25 to August 10. Afterwards, players get about two weeks off before club pre-season and Champions League qualifiers begin, and the WSL resumes in September.

“What the players ask all the time is where is rest for us because they want to compete,” she continued. “We want a player to be fit and fresh which means that you always also need rest, a proper rest.”

“I think it starts with with the FIFA calendar,” she continued. “Then, of course, it’s UEFA so starts with the Champions League. The Women’s Super League starts a little later, but players can’t have rest when you play in the first round of Champions League.

“Then the Federations need to adapt to that here in Europe. When we have a winter competition, if you adapt a little bit then you can build in some rest for players and that’s what really needs to do.”

While addressing the summer camps in June and July, Wiegman revealed that she is not in a position where resting key players that have played all throughout the recent tournaments and league football is possible.

“I’m not willing to do that ahead of the [summer camps] because we want to have the best players on the pitch, in the squad and we want to win. We want to make the chance of winning as high as possible,” she said.

“If I rest the player while the player feels that she’s fits and fresh, they really want to play so they don’t want me to say okay, now I’m going to rest you while she thinks she’s ready to play. “

England came second in the World Cup last year amid a heavily congested calendar year of football / Eurasia Sport Images/GettyImages

Wiegman is hoping the two upcoming friendlies in February will be a chance to rotate, try new things and prepare the squad for the upcoming Euro 2025 qualifiers.

“What we can do is experiment,” she said. “This is the first start in preparation for the for the Euro qualifiers and then hopefully for the Euros. We can try out things and we can see many players to see where they’re at.”

The U23 Lionesses are also travelling to southern Spain to hold their training camp alongside the seniors. It is the first time England have adopted a joint approach, meaning Wiegman opted for a 23-player squad rather than a broader 25-player team.

“I went with 23 [players] because U23s are there too and around so if necessary, we can [bring players in] from the U23s to the senior team which is an opportunity too,” Wiegman added.

The camp also provides a chance for fringe players who have lacked international minutes and experience to break into the side and take the opportunity to showcase why they should be in contention for the impending high-stakes games.

“From something negative not playing play-offs, [this is something] positive,” she added. “This is absolutely an opportunity to do that, to have a look at that and to get the real competition continuing again.”

Leah Williamson returns to England after suffering an ACL injury in April / Visionhaus/GettyImages

Williamson has returned to the Lionesses after suffering an ACL injury in April last year during Arsenal’s 1-0 loss to Manchester United. The skipper was agonisingly ruled out of the World Cup and has spent the last ten months in a gruelling rehab process to regain full fitness.

After returning to the pitch for Arsenal in their 6-0 win over Reading in the Conti Cup, Williamson made two starts in Arsenal’s consecutive losses to West Ham United and Manchester City.

“It’s really nice to have her back because she’s a very good player,” the boss said. “Even though she’s been out for months, her decision making is very good.”

However, Wiegman would not confirm whether Williamson would resume her duties as Lionesses captain, stating that she would have to speak to the players beforehand and make a decision.

Coming as quite a surprised to most, Nikita Parris was left out of the 23-player squad despite notching 15 goals in all competitions for Manchester United. Sitting fourth in the Golden Boot race with eight league goals in 12 games, Parris is leading United’s goalscoring efforts.

Having played both as a winger and more centrally, the 71-cap international was itching to don an England crest once again after failing to be recalled to the Lionesses since November 2022, but her return to England will have to wait.

“Of course the competition up front is really high and she didn’t play much in autumn,” Wiegman admitted. “Since the new year she’s played in the ‘nine’ position. She’s done really well, we’ve noticed that.

“I’ve spoken to her and I hope she has more consistency there. I have gone with others and it was a tough decision.”


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