Walter Mazzarri says he must temper Stefano Okaka’s willingness to push his body to the limit if he’s going to get the best out of his hulking front man.
Okaka pinged his hamstring after thundering off the bench for his debut against West Ham and then against Everton, in his third comeback game following a long lay off, he injured his hamstring again when he sprinted across the field to smash into Seamus Coleman in front of the dug out. Mazzarri is thrilled with the wholehearted nature of his fellow countryman’s play but says it comes at a price.
“Okaka’s problem was that he didn’t do the summer preparation with the whole team,” Mazzarri said. “Against West Ham, he gave more than 11o per cent in the end. He was very generous and went over his limit. It was the same versus Everton: he was very tired, but made a last run to the wing and that is when he got the injury. I have to be the one to look very carefully and follow him carefully during training.”
A traffic light system was in operation at the training ground last season, with players approaching the red zone considered at greater risk from injury. Their training schedule would be altered and their workload managed.
“Now that I know him I have to be careful,” said Mazzarri of the summer signing from Anderlecht. “When he’s playing I always ask if he will be able to continue and he will always say he’s perfect and wants to continue. I have to take decisions by looking at him as his character will tell you he always wants to keep going.”