Is There A Smoking Gun For Arsenal’s Injury Problems?

sySaturday morning and kick-off is a matter of…ah, still thirty-odd hours away. There’s a bit of time to kill so this morning’s playlist Mr Love (in the right sidebar or here) will help while away an hour or so.

Arsène has no need of such distractions, he has plenty of things to occupy his time. As well as getting the remnants of his squad together for tomorrow’s North London Derby, he has launched an inquiry that will look for the truth behind the causes of the seemingly never-ending list of injuries which have kicked the squad from pillar to post. Being used to such endeavours set up by the British government over the years, the cynical might believe it to be a public relations exercise coming so quickly on the heels of news that Aaron Ramsey has suffered another setback on his road to recovery. After all, the first question to be asked is why it has taken this long for the penny to drop? The obvious answer is that the wheels may come off the Premier League season as a result; better to pre-empt criticism than react to it.

“I am concerned that this happens. If you look at our overall injury list going into such a decisive part of the season, we have not Wilshere, not Walcott, not Özil, not Ramsey and we went to Bayern without Gibbs and Monreal. We are analysing very deeply why it happened and to see if there is a link between all these injuries.”

– Arsène Wenger yesterday

Injuries are causing problems with Mesut Özil’s the latest in a long line to the treatment room this season. You only have to look at the potential occupants of the bench tomorrow to realise how thin the squad has become. Whilst there is merit in the suggestion that misfortune has played a part in striking at the heart of the midfield, the strains on that part of the squad have been there since Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s injury on the opening day. Signing Özil alleviated some of that problem and with the numbers in the first team squad limited to twenty-five plus fringe players, there are only a limited number of spaces available. In other areas, you can’t help but shake the feeling that Wenger has been playing with fire and has been lucky not to be left a scorch mark on the earth. It is still inconceivable how we have missed the opportunity to sign an experienced striker in the past two windows (and before, for that matter) and how lucky they have been regarding Olivier Giroud’s fitness. He still relies on that with Nicklas Bendtner no longer seemingly part of his plans following his bunk to Copenhagen this week. Yaya Sanogo for all his promise, still has a dubious fitness record.

Whilst assuring that “everything will be analysed“, the concern is that Arsène will not allow those tasked with providing answers, to ask the right questions. Already the agenda appears to have been set with the manager already bringing international football into the equation. There are consequences from these matches and they do impact but when the majority of injuries are wear and tear, it is impossible for the club to exonerated. In those circumstances, culpability sits even more squarely at club level for they have to manage the squad and embrace these additional fixtures into their routines because they know they exist and will always be there.

Whether the problem is, as Wenger, suggested to do with training routines and pitches remains to be seen and is not likely to be that simplistic. Arsène knows that it is likely to be conditioning, training, matches and rehabilitation which combine to bring the problems in the first place and that no one area is going to provide all the solutions. But when the manager puts Walcott’s injury down to “bad luck“, you have to be concerned as to whether or not there will be a proper review which is ultimately beneficial to the future. It’s in Arsène’s interest if he is to sign a new contract, to find the solution as it benefits himself and the club; a self-confessed ‘winner’, he wants more silverware but the answers may force him to look at his methods wholesale, a process which is not the most comfortable one can undertake especially if they have proven successful in the past.

Wenger found an unlikely ally in Jose Mourinho on the subject of the number of games and allowing proper recovery time in between even though the Chelsea manager was referring explicitly to the scheduling of fixtures in relation to Champions League matches. Television is a problem which needs to be addressed and whilst logically you would sympathise with both Chelsea and City on the way that Sky and BT interfere with preparations, their problems are to Arsenal’s potential gain domestically this season. Equally, the clubs need to be stronger in their collective negotiations with the broadcasters on these matters; they have made their beds and must lie in them, no matter how uncomfortable.

I hope the club do take this as seriously as the pronouncement gives the impression. Not just from the perspective of improving their fortunes which we all want but also from witnessing players whose careers are being disrupted continually. Walcott, Wilshere and Ramsey have all missed considerable numbers of matches through injury, Rosicky also. These are supremely talented individuals who will enhance any team when they are on the pitch and lift the clouds of mediocrity which besiege the English game at the moment. Game changers such as these are the ones you pay the inflated ticket prices to watch, they are ones who capture the imagination and habitual injuries diminish their impact. We shall see what the outcome is.

Finally, this month’s Backpass magazine carries an interesting piece on Alan Skirton – one for the older readers – which is well worth grabbing hold of when you are next in the newsagents.

’til Tomorrow.

67 thoughts on “Is There A Smoking Gun For Arsenal’s Injury Problems?

  1. Alan (Daisy) Skirton. Yes I remember him well. He was a big fast right winger who could score goals, and when he had a head of steam up very little would stop him, and woe betide any defender who tried. I think he got the Daisy nickname from the popular music hall duo Gert & Daisy (get it? Skirton Daisy).

  2. It’s been a problem for a long time now. What is the consistent factor? Medical staff have come and gone. New facilities have been built. Have the fitness coaches or the training regimes?

    There must be a factor somewhere which has not varied enough to affect the overall effect. Too mant injuries and poor recovery rates.

  3. Well one reason is that Wenger has over played some squad members (Wilshere, Ramsey, Ozil – and Giroud). It has been there for all to see and Jack may never get over it. Another reason is that – since he broke up the 2nd great team – Wenger has never seen a need to balance skill & technique with size & power. Hence man for man Arsenal have continually taken on bigger, heavier, fiercer men … many of whom are also skilful.

  4. I believe our injury problems are a combination of many things.

    As Chris says , overplaying is most certainly one of them as is the way we`ve played for a good while (known as tippy tappy) which involves lots of short , playing to feet passing which invites challenges.

    One thing which I don`t think has been mentioned is the Emirates pitch. It`s still obviously a new pitch , certainly in comparison to most other EPL pitches , & it appears rock hard underneath. We grease it up to aid our passing game but there`s little give in it. Playing on it regularly must surely impact joints & muscles, especially when players are in the so called red zone.

    I would certainly be interested to see a stat on home versus away injuries for our players.

  5. simple answer. NO
    whats overplaying got to do with it? injuries caused by tackles, kicks etc are not caused by training.

  6. silentstan – what about all the hamstrings twanging, and the pressure on joints and tendon injuries…could easily be caused by strain and overuse. impact injuries are a separate issue but the majority this season seem to be non-tackle related.

  7. the only impact injury i can think of are chambo in the first game and maybe Theo,the rest have been mascular wear and tear injuries,we are lucky Giroud hasnt followed.

  8. What an excellent piece.

    Unflinching and pragmatic. Precisely the kind of emotionless, unapologetic analysis that is valuable by it’s absence.

    Thanks mister, I enjoyed reading that immensely.

  9. Nice one, Yogi, but you are opening up a whole can of worms with the who, how and why of injuries.

    First off:- the main reason footballers get hurt is not because they have been fouled, by a Shawcross or similar neanderthal, but because they do it to themselves.

    With all those fast twists and turns, and sprints from a standing start, they strain leg muscles, and eventually a ligament or a tendon can and will get torn or a calf or thigh muscle can get pulled, or a knee will collapse.

    It may not be obvious but professional footballers, like many other sportsmen, repeat certain physical moves over and over again, and we all know that repetitive stress syndrome can be devastating.

    We can sometimes be a bit parochial in thinking that increased injuries are specific to Arsenal, but that is not the case, as many clubs are in the same boat. Further afield, there are reported increases in injuries in many other sports, and there is a suspicion that the clampdown on drugs like steroids, previously used to treat and speed up the recovery time for injuries has also had an effect, though I am not suggesting this applies to Arsenal.

  10. Apologies, Jonny, but I did not understand:-

    — “Precisely the kind of emotionless, unapologetic analysis that is valuable by it’s absence.”

    Can you clarify?

  11. heh GIroud must have pissed someone properly off in the mail. he’s in there almost every week now with some “rumour” or the other. What did he do? Did he have an argument with one of Daily Mails managers or something?

    Oh well only 3 more goals this season and his tally is over 21. He’s scored 18 goals in 26 matches so far.

  12. Henry – the causes are well known but Arsenal’s biggest problem is perhaps a manager who goes in, season after season, with a squad that looks slight, then professes his belief in said squad but then fails to back those words.

    The squad is either deep enough or it isn’t – AW’s actions repeatedly illustrate his lack of belief and trust in his support players. The end result is as obvious as it was predictable.

    We used to have valid reasons for this but increasingly we only have excuses.

  13. Yogi:

    Great post. Incredibly interesting topic.

    Certain players are injury prone. Diaby is the extreme case but players like RVP and Aguero are other examples. We have several players on our roster who have spent a lot of time injured during their career such as Walcott, Gibbs, Arteta, Wilshere. Sonogo etc. Combine that with a bit of bad luck and Arsene’s tendency to overplay his regulars and you have the perfect storm. Very few players go through an entire season without missing a few games. It would have been unusual for a player who plays as much as Ozil to not have had some sort of injury during the course of a season. I agree with Henry that all teams suffer this problem to some degree and this year has been a particularly bad year for us but variations from season to season can be related to chance. I really doubt that there is something in our training methods or the Emirates pitch or some other hidden reason for our injury issues.

  14. Good job Yogi,very good topic if you ask me,numerous injuries to our squad is alarming,….i think the fault might be in Arsene not trusting some players to play them when necessary and therefore indulge in over playing some of his beloved players thereby aggravating the probability of been injured anytime.For pete sake our squad is thin compared to other top teams and the number of games we play in a season is much,thereby the tear and wear will always occur cause these players hardly recovers from game game.I believe if Arsene have faith enough to play fringe players some time it will go a long way in curbing the alarming rate of injuries in our team.

  15. Thanks, Jonny.

    You have come close, perhaps unintentionally, to my own view, and that is not necessarily directly related to injuries under discussion, although you have made the connection, and that is that many of our squad players are capable of making a career in professional football, but are just not good enough to be part of a squad at a club like Arsenal who have pretensions to be EPL champions.

    OK, I am guilty of making that read like an unnecessarily difficult compound, complex sentence structure, (sorry) but I am sure you will be able to agree or disagree with the stated view. 🙂

  16. Henry – I just meant that too few voices are prepared to cold and objective in what is an emotional subject (fandom, support). I think YW tries to remove his Arsenal tie.

    This is all the more valuable because few others, even remotely, bother and those that do invariably, for my money, fail.

    It’s probably my single favourite quality of this blog – I think it is what sets it apart.

    He’s a bit of a cynical git when you meet him – that probably helps. 🙂

  17. “OK, I am guilty of making that read like an unnecessarily difficult compound, complex sentence structure, (sorry) but I am sure you will be able to agree or disagree with the stated view”

    You illustrated your fears with that sentence. 😀

  18. Jonny,

    In answer to your earlier point.

    It cannot be stressed enough to say that conditioning and rest are of the utmost importance in preventing injuries. But I thought that the ‘black boxes’ worn by the players was supposed to ensure that they did not enter the ‘red zone’ or were given rest as prescribed.

    Interestingly, when Mesut was diagnosed as being lethargic and unable to last 90 minutes, he was effectively ordered not to rest, but to work harder to make him more competitive, which seemed counter intuitive, and I would have thought the better option would have been to change his training routine and not increase the training workload, and incorporate additional rest time into his schedule.

    You see, and I am just an amateur in these matters, but when making what might be drastic changes to a training routine, such as starting a weight-lifting regimen, (Ozil/Ramsey – allegedly) the techniques employed are key, and if done badly the opposite effect to that wanted can occur..

    In essence all these training regimes and conditioning routines should be implemented in preseason, and continued during the season to reduce injury occurrences — but surely Wenger and his coaching staff must know all that.

  19. Jonny,

    The Warrior of Yogi, knows that my sole ambition in life is to become the new Blog Meister, and I think he cynically writes brilliant Posts to make that ambition impossible to achieve – of course my pure laziness coupled with a total inability to write anything of interest makes it even more impossible.

    As a man lacking in any real ambition, I find setting impossible goals in life is a perfect excuse to not bother!

    I suppose that makes me a self-critic then!! 🙂

  20. Well I enjoy your posts mister B, but yeah- too true: YW does make it all too tough on us pretenders. 😀

  21. Lordy be – that made me laugh at length!

    I’m deeply flattered – I was just trying to make people itch.

  22. HenryB

    I think the key thing is that none are (should) have a pop at the club for the impact injuries (Ramsey/Eduardo) but there is something wrong in the rehabilitation process (on the surface at least) when players are out having just come back. Are the medics too optimistic, for example? For me, the key thing is this; find the cause, correct it and get on with life.

    The worry is that someone will say, for example, that the style of play is the cause but rather than adapt to suit the players we have, a Gallic shrug of the shoulders happens and nothing changes.

  23. Yogi/Jonny,

    I suspect there is something of a disconnect between the causes of injury and the efficacious treatment of the injuries.

    First though it might be wise to see just how widespread a problem football injuries are.

    Arsenal are reported to have 11 injuries as we speak, of which 5 relate to late fitness tests which are required before the game tomorrow. (Monreal/Kallstrom/Gibbs/Rosicky/Sanogo) and 1 (Bendtner) is a gone man gone player. 🙂

    That means that out of 11 injured players, 5 are for one reason or another about to be reinstated in the squad as fit, or will return shortly, and then there is Bendy, so that leaves on 5 on longer lay offs, and that includes poor old Diaby, who I think will join Bendy on the released list.

    Does not seem to big an injury roster to me.

    The club with the next longest injury list is Newcastle with 8 players down, none of whom are due back in the near future.

    Third on the list is the Spuds with 8 injured and 4 of whom will receive fitness tests tomorrow.

    Anyway you look at it the wounded soldiers do not make a statistically significant proportion of the players in the Premiership.

    Perhaps what we should be looking at is not the numbers out injured at any one time, but the recurrence of underlying injuries to Jack, and Rambo and even Diaby. Is it to do with their diagnoses? Their treatment or some fundamental problem with their genetic physical nature. {Jack seems to have a recurrent ankle problem since he was a youth – if he was a horse they would have put him down. And Diaby seems to have been injured in such a way that he might have to retire – or go the way of the knackered nag).

    What I am saying is that perhaps we are asking the wrong question about player injuries, the causes and the treatment.

  24. I know the Post majored on Arsenal player injuries, but looking at the bigger picture, out of Premier League total of 83 injuries to players currently on the injured list, 53 relate to hamstring injuries or ankle/knee ligament damage.

    No surprises there as to the nature of the injuries or the 64% of the total which are very ‘football’.

    In the case of Arsenal, 9 of the 11 (82%) injuries relate to knee and hamstring problems. No surprise there either.

  25. I can here snoring at the back, so I will lay off and leave you to your ‘alternative pursuits). 🙂

  26. Another lovely day here in Devon. French beans and peas planted in polytunnel and spud beds dug over ready for earlies.

    Tomatoes, peppers, chillies and aubergines looking good. Broad beans ready to plant out.

    One or two new fruit trees looking for homes though and a good few hundredweight of manure to move prior to the arrival of another load next week. Never mind.

    Also moved on several items of redundant usage on Freecycle today. Always satisfying and you meet some fascinating people. One today runs an urban farm in her Plymouth house on a pretty tough estate. She was studying criminology at Uni., too. She was the spitting image of an old girlfriend of mine which was a bit unsettling as she, the old girlfriend, had the most spectacular ‘ décolletage’ that I can recall.

    Anyway. Injuries. Yes, Jonny and Henry have it fair and square.

    Pizzas to make now. Ummm.

  27. Well done Villa now we have to go out and win the NLD.

    William and Ramires suspended against us. William can be replaced by Schurrle but Ramires is a big loss for them with his workrate next to Matic who doesn’t cover a lot of ground but is solid when paired next to somebody who has the work rate.

  28. I wonder:

    “better to pre-empt criticism than react to it.”

    “the clouds of mediocrity which besiege the English game at the moment.”

    Is this as level headed or constructive as it could have been?

  29. Karim,

    Willian, Ramirez and Maureen all sent off. This seems to be the mark of success for the clubs that the latter manages. Victories and success are such complex terms that often fall prey to stock definitions in this era!

  30. Come on we have a chance, get ourselves back in the race by winning. No slip ups from now on.

    None at all.

    We win our game in hand and against Tottenham and we will be 1 point behind Chelsea and 4 behind Man City(assuming they win all their games in hand).

    But that means no more slip ups, we cannot afford any more mistakes , it’s almost last chance to make up ground and maybe just maybe , have a chance at the title.

  31. And i hope Man Utd win, as unlikely as that is.

    They will probably lose against Liverpool’s attack.But Liverpool have a weak defence to be honest.

  32. @Moe

    Mert said the samething, no more slipups or dropping all 3 points.

    I agree with you, we have to get all the points we can against the top sides because after March they all play each other and we play all the lower and mid-table sides.

    We just have to attack because to be honest, if we play like we did in the 2nd half against Bayern we can beat anybody because Shitty’s back 4 isn’t that great and Chavs will be without key players.

  33. C

    I still believe to some degree we can do it, but it literally means we cannot lose anymore, we have alot of points to make up. For me it is still doable, but it means this team has to turn into a beastly ruthless team who batters teams into submission.

    For me we are 100x better than Liverpool but LIverpool have great strikers who just pummel the opposition into submission.

    If Arsenal had a striker like Suarez, RIP the league. That is all we are missing.

  34. Its weird that people react at ramirez red card. tis about time really, he does this kind of stuff ALL the time. So does Yaya Toure. Nobody dares to give him a red card though. he is after all “the best midfielder in PL”. Him and captain dive… Though captain dive is not as bad.. Though he is kinda the Scoles of liverpool both positive and negative.

  35. @Moe

    Exactly, I don’t mind Giroud at all and think he is a quality striker but we are missing that TopTop Class striker even World Class. I think give us that plus a fully fit Theo and we would win the EPL.

    I think that we have the players to score goals and force teams into submission but we have to play at tempo and play like we did against Bayern in the 2nd half and we would be really hard to bear in the EPL.

  36. Monseigneur Venger……

    Why this issue was not Analyzed 3 seasons ago? Why did we have to wait till this season? We always….always lose players for entire seasons and some for half seasons.

    Apart from the injuries sustained by Football hacks and some British “Stupid Gentle Giants”, we always have injuries more than any club in the league.

    I think one of the reasons is, since the invincibles we moved in the direction of highly skilled little players who are very good on the ball but have no physical strength to play an entire season.

    Since I’m sure Mr. Wenger knew this from a long time ago, it’s his plan anyways, this issue could have been avoided with more players.

    He’s like a teacher who prefers to teach a smaller class to give each student enough time of his attention, but what good is this, if half of your students can’t attend the whole course?

    Big game, All the best of luck to all Gunners

  37. G4E,

    I think there might be much in what you say here: especially about the nature of our players and the game we’ve adopted,

  38. good post..
    this is a topic that was touched on last week and im glad AW is hinting about doing something about it, whether he does or not remains to be seen as weve had the same problems for years..

    impact injuries you can do nothing about but as i mentioned last week our problems are not impact related..

    they are training related…

    i dont know much but i know my way around fitness and its well documented that if you train hard at a certain level you will achieve your goal quicky, the problem is the gains you make are short term and leaves you suspectable to injuries..

    in body building for example you may look buff but when you are on stage you are physically at your weakest and you’ll be more out of shape at anypoint in your training schedule simply trying to look good for that one can tear a muscle just flexing…

    we train our players into the ground..short term it works we are fitter than most and after 70 minutes we have 90percent of teams knackerd but over the longer term we are fucked… in the red zone…
    long term fitness is best done gradually over a period but our style of play dictates we get box to box for 90minutes passing and moving wearing the other team down with pass and move..

    which is fine..but you need a squad full of naturally fit gladiators, which we havent had since the invincibles, or, you just need a bigger squad, which we havent had since jesus was born…

    its not rocket science..over trained and over played and to top it off when your of a certan age, like young players, who are still developing, it can cause you issues for the rest of your jack and gibbs for example…

  39. not forgetting, we play three games a week…
    if we didnt play in europe we would probably win the league as everyone would be fit all season..

  40. Christmas break…… family, turkey, cranberry sauce, wine, sex with the mistress………. I don’t see these injury problems affecting Barca, Bayern and PSG. Only a thought….

  41. xmas break would help..
    but not at xmas..its tradition, part of the festivities is the football calender..
    you take football away at xmas then unless your a kid getting a gi joe with the kung fu grip, as an adult its crap..

    winter break, in january, would help..

    but so would squad rotating

    and so would signing players with impressive records and not crocks to begin with..

  42. Just trying not to envision you on stage, oiled and stripped down to your jocks posing for the judges, JJ.

    Bloody awful picture..

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