Posted on: Tue 14 Aug 2012

With squad numbers low due to international duty, assistant first team coach Steve Holland believes the focus in this week's training is more on individual advancement than collective cohesion.

Just nine outfield players and three goalkeepers were at Cobham on Tuesday for training, with some players like Ashley Cole and Juan Mata given an extra day off to rest before reporting back today, while many others will be representing their countries around Europe this evening.

Far from a perfect situation, Holland sees it as just another obstacle in a difficult pre-season.

'It's not ideal this week. The pre-season has been a real challenge from day one to be honest,' he said. 'Of the senior squad squad, we had a few players here on day one and gradually added to that until we were in America, when we added more, and four more came last week from the Olympics, with one still to come back.

'Then when the squad was looking like it was all together, we now have another international break in the week before the season. It's not perfect but it's something we navigate, and having the extra day to play at Wigan on Sunday is certainly an advantage.'

Despite the absentees, there are still gains to be made in the lead up to the Barclays Premier League curtain raiser.

'The effect of players coming back at different stages is obvious, so when you consider that John Terry and Fernando Torres both played their first full 90 minutes of the summer against Manchester City on Sunday, it's an opportunity to have John here and top him up, preparing him for Sunday,' Holland explained. 'Juan Mata similarly, so there is a very individual focus on it. We can't do too much team play but we can still improve individuals in preparation for Sunday.'

Holland also found time to praise Ryan Bertrand, who is with the England squad for their friendly against Italy in Switzerland, having seen the defender graduate from reserve to Champions League winner.

'I'm even more satisfied to see him in the squad because I had Ryan in the reserves two years ago and have seen him come all the way through from there,' Holland said. 'To see him in the Champions League Final and now get an England call-up is fantastic and great testament to Ryan and the work he's put in.

'I've spoken to him about the Olympics experience too, coming out in the stadiums and the opening ceremony, and he's had a fantastic few months so we wish him well in Switzerland.'

Meanwhile back at Cobham the work will be going on as hard as ever, with the start of the season edging ever nearer.