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Untold Injury Review of the Season – Part 3, Adding Value

Untold Injury Review of the Season – Part 3, Adding Value

By Dale Higginbottom

Last time out on the Untold Injury Review I listed the total injuries and a few general observations of the totals and came to the conclusion that we were one of the worst hit this season. The following table gives the totals and a breakdown of the positions.

Team Injuries
Goalkeeper Defence Midfield Attack Team Total
Tottenham 9 93 97 23 222*
Arsenal 39 60 98 24 221
Man Utd 9 42 107 22 180
Man City 7 49 50 39 145
Liverpool 1 65 45 22 133
Chelsea 0 45 70 9 124
Position Totals 65 354 467 139 1025
Position % 6.3% 34.5% 45.6% 13.6%

*Incorrectly shown as 223 in previous article, all percentages and totals now corrected

This information was all well and good however, without some indication of which players were injured we can’t truly say which team was worst hit by injuries last season. For example, all of Chelsea’s 124 injuries could have been to players like Lampard, Terry and Drogba and all of Tottenham’s could’ve been to the likes of Jenas, dos Santos and Keane.

For this analysis I am going to delve a little deeper and try to put some value into the injuries. The idea behind this is that an injury to Denilson has much less of an impact on the squad and performances than an injury to Fabregas. Obviously I cannot say precisely how much less so I’ll have to make a few assumptions.

I have decided to group players in blocks of approximately 6 players. I initially thought to give 1st team players a value of 1 and the rest a value of 0.5. This would be a reasonable way of separating out the most important players but to value an injury to Rooney twice as much as an injury to say Bebe or more obviously, valuing Arshavin and Frimpong with the same injury multiplier seems quite bizarre. Instead therefore I decided on the following scale.

Category Multiplier Arsenal Players
5 Stars 1.25 Fabregas, van Persie, Nasri, Vermaelen, Song
1st Team 1 Fabianski, Sagna, Koscielny, Clichy, Wilshere, Walcott
Typical Bench 0.75 Szczesny, Djourou, Eboue, Ramsey, Diaby, Arshavin, Chamakh
The Rest 0.5 Almunia, Squillaci, Gibbs, Denilson, Bendtner etc

Now, let me try to explain the decisions around these and how I decided who should go in each category. Firstly, I started with the first choice starting eleven. I based these to some degree on the “Most Used Eleven” from Whoscored.com and factored in players that were unusually omitted and players that would otherwise been included in this eleven but for injuries and suspensions.

The star players were decided upon by a similar method, firstly using the average ratings provided on Whoscored.com but also taking into consideration the injuries suffered this season.

It was a similar thing for the typical bench category as I chose players that played the most games or were most-likely to be chosen for the subs bench (factoring in injuries and suspensions) but with the bench I also went for a typical set-up on 1 goalkeeper, 1 centre-back, 1 full-back, 1 centre-midfielder, 1 wide midfielder/winger, 1 striker and 1 “other”.

I understand and admit that this is method never going to be perfect, as it’s not ideal to give players such an arbitrary value, especially in one of only four categories. However, alternatives would be extremely time-consuming and would require a lengthy fan survey into player importance ranking and some sort of sliding-scaled value system, something which I’d have no idea where to start.

So anyway, these are the classifications and below are tables for each squad.

Pos Arsenal Man Utd Chelsea
GK Fabianski Van der Sar* Cech
RB Sagna Rafael Ivanovich
CB Koscielny Ferdinand Terry*
CB Vermaelen* Vidic* Alex
LB Clichy Evra Cole
MF Song* Fletcher Mikel
MF Wilshere Carrick Essien*
MF Fabregas* Nani* Lampard*
MF/FW Walcott Valencia Malouda*
MF/FW Nasri* Berbatov* Anelka
FW Van Persie* Rooney* Drogba*
Subs Subs Subs Subs
GK Szczesny Kuszczak Turnbull
CB Djourou Evans Luiz
FB Eboue O’Shea Bosingwa
CM Ramsey Hargreaves Ramires
WG Arshavin Park Kalou
FW Chamakh Hernandez Sturridge/Torres
Other Diaby Giggs Zhirkov
Pos Man City Liverpool Tottenham
GK Hart* Reina Gomes
RB Richards Johnson Hutton
CB Kompany* Agger King*
CB K. Toure Carragher* Gallas
LB Kolarov Skrtel Assou-Ekotto
MF De Jong Lucas Huddlestone*
MF Barry Gerrard* Modric*
MF Y Toure* Meireles* Bale*
MF/FW Milner Maxi/Suarez Lennon
MF/FW Silva* Kuyt* Van der Vaart*
FW Tevez* Torres/Carroll* Defoe
Subs Subs Subs Subs
GK Given Jones Cudicini
CB Boateng Konchesky/Kelly Dawson
FB Zabaleta Kyrgiakos Corluka
CM Vieira Spearing Palacios
WG A Johnson Cole/Maxi Pienaar
FW Balotelli Ngog Crouch
Other Lescott Aurelio Pavlyuchenko

Nb. Transfers in January impacted the line-ups halfway through the season however only really in the case of in the case of Liverpool and Chelsea. Suarez replaced Maxi and Carroll replaced Torres whilst Torres replaced Sturridge who moved to Bolton on loan.

So, from the tables above players with a * get an x1.25 multiplier, other first team players get x1, the substitutes get x0.75 and any player not listed gets x0.5. These value adjustments were then fed directly into the super-computer at Untold Towers and the resulting print-outs gave the following totals.

Team Injury Value
Goalkeeper Defence Midfield Attack Team Total
Tottenham 8.5 84.75 85.75 17.25 196.25
Arsenal 28.75 60.5 74.75 21.75 185.75
Man Utd 5.25 38 85.75 19.25 148.25
Liverpool 0.75 60.5 39 20.5 120.75
Man City 5.25 41 31.75 27 105
Chelsea 0 40.5 54 8 102.5

I think this, when compared to the table at the top of this page, really shows something interesting. Arsenal and Tottenham had very similar total injuries last season (just one number in it), yet using these values we can say that the Tiny Totts suffered an injury level 5% worse than us. We can certainly now see why Tottenham couldn’t maintain their Champions League status, a high number of injuries to high profile players, largely I believe due to an increase in the number of important fixtures during the season.

Maybe the fortunes of our neighbours really goes some way to emphasise just how much of a great job Arsène Wenger has done over the years in maintaining our Champions League status in spite of this season’s injury levels and the similar (if not worse) levels we’ve seen over previous seasons. Likewise we can see that, whilst finishing fourth was a disappointing end to the season, given the injuries suffered by the two teams just above us in the league we did pretty well to be just a few points behind. Maybe if Chelsea and City had a few more injuries to key players then they would’ve dropped a few more points last season. Similarly United had a somewhat of an easier time of it compared to us and they too could’ve dropped a couple more points had they been in our injury position.

Overall I think we can say that these value adjustments have not had a massive impact on how the teams line-up i.e. the teams with the highest totals still have the highest injury values but it is interesting to see how Man United now compare to Liverpool and Arsenal. It seems that whilst United had a high total, the players that were missing were not quite as important as those missing for Arsenal or Liverpool, allowing the gap to grow (in percentage terms) between Arsenal and United and shrink between United and Liverpool.

The next table matches one that was in the last article

Team Injury Value
Team Total Per Game Average Lowest Week Score Highest Week Score
Tottenham 196.25 5.16 1 9
Arsenal 185.75 4.89 2.25 8.5
Man Utd 148.25 3.90 1.5 7.5
Liverpool 120.75 3.18 0 6.5
Man City 105 2.76 0.5 6.5
Chelsea 102.5 2.70 0.75 4.75

This average is not quite as easy to interpret as in the previous article but Arsenal’s 4.89 average is roughly the equivalent of for example, 2 star players, 1 other 1st XI player, 1 regular substitute player and 1 fringe player. So, an example of this would be being without Vermaelen, Fabregas, Fabianski, Diaby and Gibbs. Don’t forget this is an average, this is what we have had to put up with all season.

Also, by looking at this table I think we can say that we’ve consistently been the worst hit on the injury front. Our lowest injury value being 2.25 (the equivalent of 1 star and 1 other first team player) and we’ve come pretty close to having the worst week, just 0.5 behind the 9 value of Spurs. One this that particularly struck me about this was that Chelsea’s average injury value is only slightly above our best ever week. With an aging squad I find it pretty amazing that Chelsea can get through a season relatively unscathed. Maybe it had something to do with Ancelotti’s links to Milan and the Milan Lab training techniques, I’m not too sure but if that is the case, we could see very different outcomes under and new coach next season

One final thing, using the injury values I’ve put together, I just want to show you Arsenal’s five worst games.

Worst Games Opponent Injury Value Result
GW30 West Brom (A) 8.5 D
GW7 Chelsea (A) 7.5 L
GW8 Birmingham (H) 7.5 W
GW29 Sunderland (H) 7.5 D
GW37 Aston Villa (H) 7.5 L

That’s five points from fifteen, certainly not what we’d be expecting from those fixtures and much less than the 8.9 points we’ve averaged every five games for the season. I think it really shows just how much injuries impact performance. Yes, other issues such as poor refereeing has played its part in some of these games (I’m thinking about the Sunderland game in particular) but, if we are going to have a chance of winning in spite of poor refereeing we need to have few injuries and be playing well. The same also goes for the reverse; if we’re to win games when we’re particularly hit by injuries then we really need to be playing against 11 men, not 12.

Now, I’ve still got numbers coming out of my ears so I’ll be back with more injury delights soon. Next time I think we’ll look deeper into injuries to first team and star players.

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9 comments to Untold Injury Review of the Season – Part 3, Adding Value

  • WalterBroeckx

    Thanks Dale and once again interesting numbers.
    And I can agree with the way you have added a value to the players. One can always debate this but I think your line is very acceptable.
    I also like the (not the results) last table. It does show (as you have said during the season) that from the moment we go over a certain number injured players we suffer in points. I think it is important that we improve on this next season. Or get lesser injuries. 😉

  • Dark Prince

    So, from the tables above playerswith a * get an x1.25 multiplier, other first team players get x1, the substitutes get x 0.75 and anyplayer not listed gets x 0.5.”

    Dont know how you came out with these’s multiplier figures, but i’d have given .50 multiplier for a substitute and .25 multiplier for others….

  • bob

    Walter,
    …Or, sorry to say, yet again (as many did then), we should have purchased or otherwise dealt for another if not first-rate defender during the injury-plagued last January transfer window.

  • walter

    Bob, with hindsight yes.
    But I can tell you at that time (January) the papers in Belgium said that Vermaelen would be back half February-end February completely fit after a little procedure.
    This is also the way Vermaelen said it on TV and I think it will be the way that the doctors have told him and Arsenal.
    If Vermaelen would have been back fit at that time another defender would not have been needed.
    But for some reason the recovery didn’t went according to plan.

  • Kentetsu

    Nice article, Dale. I might not 100% agree with the star players for every team, but you can always debate for one or the other and at some point you have to make choices.

    In reference to what DP said about the multipliers, I do not think a multiplier of 0.5 and 0.25 for bench and fringe players will make much of a difference in the tables, other than slightly different values. Most likely every team will still end up in the same place as they were now.

    For next season, will you continue your injury reviews like you did last season or start giving weighted injury ratings – based on which players are expected to be key players – like you did in this article?

  • bob

    Walter,
    I hear year, but people here were also arguing that we could still use coverage, even if V. came back, because we didn’t know how effective he’d by right away, because we had an intense 4-front war to contend with, and we needed help on the set-pieces anyway. I’m not trying to be right in hindsight, but it’s how I remember it. In any case, those doctors need slating, or so it seems, as a lot hinged going-forward on that so-called advice. I strongly feel that we did not have enough quality in depth and shouldn’t assume we’ll beat the odds, injury-wise, as today’s posting amply demonstrates.

  • Domhuaille MacMathghamhna

    Excellent review as always Dale. I am not mathematically inclined (always hated stats in University) but it does show a few things that the Gloomer-doomer,blame Wenger Under 10’s easily forget or ignore:

    1)Having to recompose and regroup a young team every other game will destabilize any EPL Club, but AW in particular has had to deal with this since 2005.
    2) It isn’t a coincidence that the teams beating us last year were those with far fewer injuries, but also those causing the most to other teams. Their ¨style ¨of Rugby football intimidated good teams and won them points they rarely deserved.
    3)Losing your best scorer (RVP) and your best CentreBack (Vermaelen) for almost the entire season had a two edged effect on Arsenal. It showed us that Nasri and Chamakh stepped up and did the job, Bendtner was all noise, Walcott began to show why we like him but was pretty much left on his own, Denilson was out of sight and out of mind, etc. If RVP had scored in the first half of the season like he did in the last half, we’d be EPL champs and if Vermaelen had been in defense, we’d have had far fewer goals against, as he is very strong in defending set pieces. Would he have made the amateur mistake Kos did in the CC ..I doubt it! would he have helped us at the Nou Camp…no doubt.

    We will never know for sure but our trophyless seasons began when we started leading the injury league…no coincidence.

  • Jas777

    It’s good we have seen this know we need to know why? And once find out why, what to do about it.

    Is it just bad luck or is it a issue that needs to be fixed. Are the injuries contact ones or overuse ones? Do a lot of injuries result from the playing surface or from type of fitness for the time of the season etc

  • Gord

    My apologies, this isn’t an Arsenal injury. But, in a friendly, a Bolton player (23 years old) has been knocked out for a season with a double leg fracture.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/football/14355944.stm

    I’m “sure” that Tom Miller of Newport County is a “good boy” and would never go into a tackle in any manner that an appreciable possibility of breaking both bones in the lower leg of an opponent.

    No team needs this problem. Players are either not willing to back out of tackles that have high probabilities of injury, or the manager has instructed them to go into these tackles.

    This is a problem which needs to go away. And if Lee Chung-yong is out for 9 months, Tom Miller should be out for 18 months. But, just having him out for 9 months might get the point across to Newport County. How long it takes for this to propagate across professional football is anyone’s guess.