With just two months until the World Cup (yes, really!), we're spending more and more time fretting about how players are performing with their clubs.
Mexico fans in particular are worried about Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez. With other attacking players lighting up the scoreboards in foreign leagues, Chicharito is seeing playing time only sporadically. In a Groundhog Day twist, the 29-year-old is battling for playing time under David Moyes, just like he was four years ago at this stage.
Does it really matter?
Clearly, you'd rather have a player feeling good heading into the tournament. There can only be so many players on hot streaks, though. There are going to be plenty of players on the field at the World Cup who have not seen a steady diet of minutes at club level, and even more who have seen competition only against far weaker teams than the ones Hernandez faces in the Premier League.
Mexico manager Juan Carlos Osorio has expressed concern about his Europe-based players not seeing gametime. Much of that worry has dissipated with defenders Hector Moreno and Miguel Layun making winter moves that have earned them more playing time. The stress level about form has changed into stress about health with Carlos Salcedo and Nestor Araujo attempting to recover from March injuries before the May friendly matches.
You also have to wonder if Chicharito even is in poor form. When he's played, he's been able to find the back of the net. The 29-year-old has stayed healthy and, while he hasn't been highlighted as one of the players following Mexico's intensive personal training plan, surely he's done enough to be a productive player in Russia.
"Like (Osorio) has said, it's every player's job to look after ourselves," Mexico midfielder Jonathan dos Santos explained earlier this year about Osorio's selection process. "Everything counts for professional players, and I believe that now the work done off the field is very important, if not one of the most important things."
Chicharito has scored 0.49 goals per 90 minutes, putting him 14th in the Premier League among players who have appeared in 20 matches or more. He's 28th in the league if you don't put that restriction on it, second for West Ham this season behind Diafra Sakho. Sakho scored twice over 292 minutes before leaving for Ligue 1 in the winter.
Chicharito is a player who makes the most of his chances. "He's a goal machine, isn't he? He gets one chance and scores," West Ham teammate Mark Noble said after Chicharito found the equalizer at Stamford Bridge. "He's probably not played as many minutes as he would have liked. That's probably down to the way the season has gone."
The forward has hit the back of the net in both his previous trips to the World Cup. It's true that the better of the tournaments, 2010 in South Africa when he scored against France and Argentina, Chicharito was coming off a season during which he was a key player with his club. The 2009 Apertura and the 2010 Bicentenario were the forward's breakout tournaments with Chivas, scoring 11 goals in the fall tournament and 10 in the following. He amassed more than 2,000 minutes over the two short tournaments.
In 2014, though, Chicharito was coming off his least active season. It was current West Ham manager Moyes' first season with Manchester United and he didn't see a case for the Little Pea to start. Chicharito ended the 2013-14 campaign with just 840 minutes played. He still scored for El Tri against Croatia. Mexico also got goals from players who were in top form: Oribe Peralta continued his tear with club and country by scoring a goal in the opening game, and Giovani dos Santos had Mexico ahead against the Netherlands after his best club showing.
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Specifically with forwards, how in-form you are doesn't necessarily predict how many goals you'll score in the summer tournament. The top scorer in 2014 was James Rodriguez, whose six goals put him just shy of his season total of nine with Monaco in the previous campaign. Five-goals scorer Thomas Muller was seeing consistent minutes with Bayern Munich. Go down into the players who scored three goals and you find Enner Valencia, coming off a great year with Pachuca, and Xherdan Shaqiri, who scored a hat trick against Honduras after an up-and-down season alongside Muller.
Any player can get hot, and given Chicharito's history with the national team and his goals at previous World Cups, it's not worth fretting about whether or not he gets in. Mexico fans understandably will be refreshing the West Ham Twitter page Monday afternoon to see if he's starting against Stoke City. If he's not, they can rest easy in the fact that their country's top goalscorer will arrive in Russia refreshed and hungry to prove himself ahead of another summer where he'll seek greener pastures at the club level.