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Non-contact injuries at Arsenal; we are not top of that league.

By Walter Broeckx

After the introduction part 1   and part 2   and part 3   and part 4    we now are going to have a look at the non contact injuries.

Now the interesting thing is that this could shed some light on the way Arsenal do with injury management. As for the contact injuries it is clear that no manager or coach can do anything about it. If the other team is allowed to kick you to pieces there is no training possible to prevent this.

The only way to stop kicking the shit out of players is for a ref to be brave enough to apply the rules in the right way, yellow card the thugs and send off people who endanger other players. But it doesn’t matter who is the manager or who is doing the rehab of those injured players as long as they don’t get protection from the refs the injuries will come back and you will suffer.

So how do things look on the non contact injury front?

Let us first take a look at the general numbers we have found since 2002.

Team TotalNon contactInjuries
Arsenal 490
Aston Villa 313
Chelsea 356
Everton 388
Fulham 282
Liverpool 324
Man City 361
Man United 431
Newcastle 503
Tottenham 426
Total 3871

The first thing that catches our attention is the fact that if we look the non contact injuries we see that Arsenal is NOT top of the list! And I must say that this is a big surprise for me – and something that the sarcastic reporters in the Guardian should notice when they blame Wenger’s training methods for all the Arsenal injuries.

Now not all is fine of course as we still are in second place. But we leave the honour in this case to Newcastle. Not really an honour that any team would like to take. But it is there, the numbers are what they are.

Of course the number of Arsenal players suffering from non contact injuries is very high. Too high. So that seems to be a problem. And this is a problem that can be looked upon and can be worked upon.

Part of the problem is of course the contact injuries. Because Arsenal losing almost one player per match because of a contact injury means that after a few matches we always seem to be short on players. And the same players have to play more games and suffer from fatigue and as a result their muscles give in and you get non contact injuries.

Constant kicking at some parts of the body may lead to muscle injuries also. But this should be the same for all teams in a way I think. But remember that we are the only team where other teams come out saying that they intend to kick us from the start.

So a big part of the problem can only be solved by referees doing a better job on the contact injury front but stopping teams who are out there to kick us to bits. That might reduce a part of this and even could make it acceptable or make it drop to a level of teams like Manchester United and Tottenham.

But it is obvious that we should not forget to look at how the players are being trained. Now if I’m not mistaken we have fitness coaches and we even have had some movement in that department during the years that this data is coming from. Is this enough? I don’t know. By the look of it we don’t see a lot of improvement at the moment.

Let us look at the average per season of these non contact injuries.

Team Average/season Non contact Injuries
Arsenal 45
Aston Villa 28
Chelsea 32
Everton 35
Fulham 26
Liverpool 29
Man City 33
Man United 39
Newcastle 46
Tottenham 39
Total 352

If we look at the average per season we see that Arsenal has some 45 injuries per season. So more than one non-contact injury per match almost!

But the strange thing is that if we compare this to Manchester United we see that they also have a record of losing one player each match because of non contact injuries! Of the other regular top 4 teams we see that only Chelsea and Manchester City are doing better. I wonder how much this has to do with the fact that they can stuff their squads full and have a bigger squad compared to Arsenal and even Manchester United.

I think that because of the money Chelsea and Man City have they can compete better on that front. And if we look at Manchester United we see that they do have a few decent backups over time but that lately those back ups have gone down quality wise. Making them play more with the same players and thus resulting in more non contact injuries.

As with the contact injuries I have done the same exercise a bit with showing the risk coefficient that each team or player has. But this is not as dramatic as with the contact injuries because Arsenal is not really far in front of the rest as they are second in the  non contact injuries.

Team Av.Non Contact injuries per season Compared to Average without Arsenal Risk coefficient for each team/player
Arsenal 45 11 130.32 %
Aston Villa 28 -6 83.24 %
Chelsea 32 -2 94.68 %
Everton 35 1 103.19 %
Fulham 26 -9 75.00 %
Liverpool 29 -5 86.17 %
Man City 33 -1 96.01 %
Man United 39 5 114.63 %
Newcastle 46 12 133.78 %
Tottenham 39 5 113.30 %
League average 34

So the risk for an Arsenal player to get a non contact injury is higher in numbers but compared to the league average it is not as high as the risk of him being kicked to pieces. That is some good news.

But as we already have seen the fact that Arsenal players also face more non contact injuries than the rest of the league is somehow something that we have to work on.

 

Next in this series we will have a look at the accusations of Raymond Verheijen the other week about Wenger being responsible for the high injury levels of Arsenal. Does he have a point or not? The answer is in the numbers.

33 comments to Non-contact injuries at Arsenal; we are not top of that league.

  • Jax

    You need to leave off with your criticisms of the Guardian journalists (you and Tony), as they are the only ones who are fair with Arsenal.

  • Barney B

    Walter,
    Interesting work, but I can’t help feeling that (over the course of the 11 or so years covered) Arsenal – as well as those other consistent European CL contenders, ManUtd & Chelsea – will have played considerably more games over a full season than, say, Aston Villa or Fulham, who both have the lowest absolute numbers in your survey.

    I suspect that this is not co-incidental, so would be interested to see the “average injuries per season” qualified by the number of games played.
    Thanks,
    barney

  • NW

    A good way to measure this is in relation to games played each season. It takes some work out because you need to count each team.

    Anyway, thank you for doing all these analysis. Really great work.

  • Gooner S

    The Guardian is pretty good. Though at the end of the day journalists write what they are told to due to the editorial policy of the paper/sports editor. Even the best ones like Patrick Barclay! Untold should be more up in arms with the likes of Neil Ashton.

  • Pete

    Walter,

    Thanks – very interesting.

    A couple of points.

    Firstly, contact injuries can be mitigated a little through building up muscle strength and having larger more robust players. I believe Chelsea work quite hard in this respect.

    Secondly, players are far more vulnerable to non-contact injuries when first returning from a long time out (either contact or non-contact).

    Thirdly, I do think we have a problem with the extent of non-contact injuries over and above what we should expect – beyond the previous point (new injuries soon after absences), players being kicked etc. We also seem to run with a smaller squad than other CL teams – which, as you note, increases the stress on the remaining fit players to perhaps play more games than they should.

    I look forward to the remaining articles in the series!

  • John

    Whilst the Guardian may not be offensive as a number of the tabloids, it’s coverage of Arsenal is still unbalanced in my view, with a frequently patronising tone, even when they are appearing to be positive.

    Thus, we play nice, attractive football, but still lack the winning instinct. Arsene Wenger is admired as a man of principle, but with the hint that he is sincere but misguided. Most of all the stereotypes about how “most Arsenal fans” demand high spending on new signings, how Arsene has been brilliant, but is now past his peak, how our squad is weak, lacking a striker / CB / FB / DM/ Keeper etc etc.

    The different approaches to Man City and Arsenal after last weeks’ respective CL matches was as evident in the Guardian as anywhere else.

  • HenryB

    Superb statistical analyses.

    My non scientific gut feeling was that, with what Wenger calls a ‘thin’ squad, allied to the fact that we play more games because we are in Europe every year, we have relatively few players playing more games than many other teams, and have proportionately more injuries of both the contact and non-contact variety.

    Your research and clearly presented tables show there is a statistical data set that shows the above is based on fact.

    Thank you, that is fascinating. 🙂

  • Imagine that, so our injury from not being kicked are about as high as those of Manchester United. Who would have believed that? Well, I am not one bit surprised.

    We get so many injury cases because we get kicked so much. The kickers don’t hide it and the moronic media is always goading them on to do it. How many games have we seen where when Arsenal is dominating the commentator is heard wondering aloud why they wouldn’t get more physical? I’ll say every game that Arsenal have dominated.

    You get kicked a lot, you get injured a lot. Simples.

    Plus, if you don’t get sick, you don’t suffer relapse but the more injury case we have, the more cases of relapse. Bottom line is that our injuries mostly come, directly or indirectly, from the kicking that we get.

  • Pat

    The Daily Telegraph on Monday was a pleasure to read for an Arsenal fan, especially the match report by Jeremy Wilson.

    This is not always the case. Sometimes it is better not to read a paper at all because it is so annoying, so I can understand the Untolders who say they have stopped reading the newspapers altogether.

  • WalterBroeckx

    The bad news is that if we add both contact and non contact injuries and we just look at the Pl matches we have 76 injuries and that is 2 injured players per match. And you could say 1 from contact and 1 from non-contact.

    I know we have to add the CL matches (8 on average + FA cup matches 4?on average and let us say 3 League cup matches) so a total of 53 matches one could say in all competitions.

    that would result in 1,5 player injured per match. Or 3 players injured every 2 matches.

  • BILL FROM MANHATTAN

    Bootoomee, Once again you hit the nail right on the head. You have a very analytical mind. Your comment at 1:14 was precisely the reason behind all of our injuries. The English refs allow the opposition to kick the shit out of us all the time. That is just plain to see. Like a boxer who takes a lot more blows than one who is more skilled at slipping punches, The one taking all those punches has a greater chance of brain damage. In all sports, the more you get whacked, the more you get hurt. It don’t matter what sport you play. The human body is just not meant to take punishment as opposed to a rhino with their thick skin and dense bone structure. But even a rhino is gonna break down with enough punishment. Always enjoy reading comments from a sensible person like yourself. Keep up the good work my brother.

  • Mike T

    I cant be 100% of the accuracy but according to my very quick calculations during the period 2001/2 -date
    Newcastle have played 637 games
    Arsenal 725
    Chelsea 739

    I don’t know if any of you picked up but a couple of premier league clubs look at players DNA profile as there appears a link to injury and the DNA itself.

  • BILL FROM MANHATTAN,

    I’m retiring for the day. I don’t think anything can brighten my day more that your comment 🙂 Maximum respect you too, my brother.

    I understand why many of our fans genuinely ask questions about other causes of our injury problems. It is what we humans do when faced with problems that look insurmountable and out of our control. I just think their questions paint the club in a bad light; you know, like we are doing something wrong somewhere.

    I don’t think so. We get lots of injuries because we get kicked a lot. For how long have we all been anticipating Wilshere’s injury from the kicking he was getting on regular basis?

  • Mike T,

    The DNA connection might be true. Some players rarely get injured while some are more injury prone. I don’t know much about the connection but it makes sense to me.

  • AL

    This is proof, not that we needed it, that all that kicking our players get is responsible for the bulk of their injuries.

    Off topic, but when are the FA going to announce charging Mourinho with bringing the game into disrepute by questioning Foy’s character?

  • finsbury

    A topical reference that I thought the Untolders would enjoy from way back when, thanks to @Goonerkal:

    https://twitter.com/GoonerKal/status/445600243271610368/photo/1

    “the Woolich Arsenal Club has always enjoyed a deserved reputation for its high standard of football…intentional hacking bashing and smashing do not coincide with our ideas of sportsmanship”

    Well, I hope someone reads out the part from the rules of association football about hacking to the ref and to Mikel and the other Gazprom CM on Saturday. Fortunately the known and repetitive stamper Ramires is banned.

  • Va Cong

    Bootoomee Al and bill from Manhattan that is what I argue with other fans. All I get is arsenal are soft I say how about I jab you 100 times in the face instead if punch you full swing? It’s like cutting a tree with an axe little niggles can destroy anyways leg. United fan said to me we are just shit now at least I admit this? Instead of blaming refs!! I said well your rednose refused to talk to the bbc. Moyes says in a conspiracy. This is the same shit team that won the league. Just this time with no hacking going your way and calls against you, just shows how influential the ref can be. This is the difference except aresnal we still maintained a top 4 finish.

  • Mahdain

    Once again a great series of articles Walter. Been keeping an eye on them and the comment section and they are really an eye opener. Do you know what i kept thinking about while reading this series? Abou Vassiriki Diaby. Such a sad story on how his career has turned out so far. He is was and is still a victim of Kick Arsenal campaign which all started with a totally unnecessary horrendous and thuggish challenge by Dan Smith that for some reason Dermott Gallagher didnt deem it a red card challenge. Ever since he has been kicked out of the pitch again and again whenever he tried to make a comeback by the likes of Essien, Barton & co. i really hope the lad regains full fitness and revives his career even if its somewhere else.
    The guy deserves a break

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Does a manager throwing the ball at an opposition player constitute a non contact injury ?
    The venom with which he threw the ball could have broken his ribs or caused a concussion !

  • Fishpie

    Great series of articles Walter. You are clearly a man who does his research. Thank you for all the hard work. A thought: some have suggested the refs are not protecting us and hence we get a lot of impact injuries. I can’t bring myself to believe there is a conspiracy by refs against Arsenal as such. Could it be instead that Arsene is trying to buck the physical culture of English football and in injury terms, coming unstuck. Basically English football has always had a high physicality quotient, therefore English FA and English refs tend to accept a high level of physical contact, therefore English teams stock up with physical players in order to compete with the physicality of the game. Except Arsene; where other teams have a reasonable proportion of big and strong types, powerful runners (particularly in midfield) we tend to have smaller and lighter players who are then forced to be more physical than they might naturally be. We can’t expect English football to change for us, just to suit Arsene’s philosophy. It’s up to him to ensure his squad is equipped for the reality of what it has to face. I accept there are some teams who spot Arsenal’s lack of physic and give us a harder time than they might other teams, but it’s Arsene’s choice to make us this way. I think he has overloaded the squad with a ton of small mids precisely because he knows just having 3 or 4 won’t last a season. I still note he was successful when he had bigger mid-fielders. Just wondering.

  • John

    @Al 2.17.

    Agree that Mourinho should be done for his outrageous attempt to excuse Ramirez’ dangerous leg-breaking assault by blaming the incident on Foy.

    As we know only too well, this player is a serial diving cheat and serious fouler, who is too accustomed to getting away with it. This may explain Mourinho’s annoyance that, on this occasion, he has got what his offence deserved.

  • Micheal Ram

    I think Arsenal players get injured more often because of the way they play the beautiful football in a wrong league. At home, they play possession football with so much running, probing and thinking around mountains of brainless and no holds barred players. Away, they prefer to soak the pressure and release it on counter attack on dirty, ‘he is not that type of player’ idiots. Both type of games requires olympian energy. Guess thats why the small size players because it takes lesser energy to be more mobile compared to ‘big cavemen’ and much faster than before. The unique diet intake since Wenger came in is the testament to that. Giroud, Campbell, Baptista, Diaby and etc lost a lot of weight in preparation to play for Arsenal regurlarly. The harmonious balance between stamina, strength and speed. It is important when combining it with techique and intelligence which are part of Arsenal game. It takes years to get it right, not a good thing if you have impatient, glory hunting fans around. Besides from physical play from opposition, the blame must be also taken by EPL for fixture congestion. I have noticed for many years now the way the fixture arranged for Arsenal. They have to play 2 or 3 sets of difficult matches in a row in a short period of time continuously every season. Wenger have no choice but to physically push his best players to the breaking point. And usually they pay for it as a team. We now have the infamous ‘Defining February’, ‘ Black March’ and even ‘Gooner November’ just for Arsenal. Just to keep their favourite teams ahead of us and to fill up the pockets of TV owners. Corrupted pricks.

  • Mike T

    When you look at the type, number of injuries and the time on the injury list at quite a number of your senior players before they signed for Arsenal there is evidence that they already were prone to injuries. Could it be that in the market Arsenal were forced to deal they had to take certain greater risks?

    Take a look at these players records pre Arsenal
    Poldoski,
    Ozil,
    Arteta (Wasn’t he rumoured never to have had a full medical)
    Vermalen
    Flamani
    and to a lesser degree Mertesaker & Monreal

    Compare them to any of Chelsea transfers and you just don’t see the same levels of injuries in their past.

  • jambug

    Mike T

    You might have a point about the DNA, after all, in most aspects of life, the Apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, as they say.

    Character traits, as well as physical traits, both good and bad, are obviously past down from generation to generation. But it’s not that simple.

    By brother and I played more or less at the same level. We where identical heights with very similar builds and fitness.

    My career was dogged with injury, both contact and muscular.

    Achilles. Hamstring. Groin. All these injuries where Chronic. Also impact injuries: Shoulder, back, and the icing on the cake, Knee: Medial and radial ligaments as well as cartilage removal.

    My brother had none of the recurring muscular problems I had. As for impact. The fool broke his foot when he kicked the corner flag when taking a corner. The only chronic injury he had was very late in his career when he developed ‘shin splints’

    My point is, if you took me as a template and entrusted your youth and transfer policy on DNA you wouldn’t of touched my brother with a barge poll.

    You would of missed a better player with an injury free career.

    This injury lark is a very complicated business, except, it seems to me, the part where:

    THE MORE YOU GET KICKED, THE MORE YOU GET INJURED.

  • jambug

    An important part I missed was where we played.

    I was, until injury intervened, a fast, tricky winger.

    My brother was a midfield stroller, a la Bobby Moore, but without the skill, composure, or passing ability, obviously 😀

    So that may well of had an influence, especially on the impact injuries.

    The more you dig the more complicated it gets. Apart from the being kicked bit of course 😉

  • Mike T

    Jambug

    Difficult to argue about being kicked and the point about where you play is an interesting point in that if you look at players who are least 1.85 metres tall they seem to suffer less injuries, unless of course they already have a bad track record in terms of injuries
    Nippy & smaller players mostly play against big central defenders, they seem to play at an earlier age meaning they come up against defenders who are quite simply physically stronger.
    I cant help feeling that one of AWs strength in that he trusts and plays younger players( such as Ramsey, Wilshire, Walcott etc) far more an indeed earlier than most managers, works against and exposes these players to greater physical demands before they are fully developed

  • WalterBroeckx

    Mike T,
    I thought Özil played most of the games for Real Madrid and didn’t have a specific injury record.
    Podolski also played most of the time. But his career at Bayern took a big dip when he did his knee and was out for a long time. But when he had his muscle injury in August that kept him out till December he said it was the first injury of that kind he suffered.
    I also don’t recall Vermaelen having a bad injury record at Ajax also.
    Flamini was rather fit in his first spell at Arsenal but did suffer a knee injury in Milan if I remember correct.
    Arteta and his medical…well we will never know what is true about that till Wenger writes his memoires I guess.

    So in short those players didn’t have a bad injury record before as far as I can remember when looking it up. Not even Arteta. If I can find the time will dig a bit deeper in to that

  • Mandy Dodd

    Very interesting Walter. It is hard to know what to make of it all. There is certainly good grounds in the kicking the shit out of us hypothesis. You mention squad depth, I believe part of this is having to over play certain players….wenger has admitted it with Jack, could also make a case for Rambo this season….and I don’t even want to think about bac, BFG, kos and OG this season as it scares me to be honest. Great that wenger is getting our finest on long term deals, that players than can cover them are developing, and signing up. An astute signing or two or three if needed this summer, developing squad players, maybe a look at fitness and training, not accusing anyone here, just take a look, as well as our powerful and influential CEO having a word about the treatment our players are getting, with the like nzonzi boasting about kicking our players….without a disrepute charge against him……and maybe things will start to improve.
    But we are up against a media, FA, PGMOL and lots of teams determined not to let our failing football philosophy of kick, rush, Kick again…die. The FA have appointed the likes of John Beck and adey boothroyd to keep us in the Stone Age…..sorry, develop the countries youngsters. They once appointed Hoddle, they wanted wenger, but now, the FA put John Beck on their payroll. Don’t stand a chance really.

  • Mike T

    Walter

    Arteta, when at Everton missed had nearly a whole year out. I seem to remember he had a minor 2 week injury. I think he came back and immediately suffered a significant injury and was out 11+ months.
    Vermalen was out for several months aged 21 with a Cruciate Ligament Rupture when at Ajax.
    Ozil did play a lot of games at real Madrid but between March & Sept 09 (when he was 21/22) he suffered 4 different knee injuries

    Poldolski had I think 9 separate injury absences before he joined Arsenal. Two were through a herniated disc.

    I am convinced that injuries in your early years come back and haunt you just the same as I suspect that you rarely fully recover from a major injury

  • WalterBroeckx

    Look at Rosicky Mike T. Missed 2 years with a big injury. And at 33 he looks as if he is only 28 years young. Well he is for the moment 😉

  • bob

    Once again, Walter,
    As this disease – orcshite/ refshite – has been chronic – and shows no sign of abatement – one antidote is to advocate (should you/UA ever cross into proactive forbidden zone of purchase-advocacy) is bigger quality bench, by any means necessary. This means don’t spurn the winter transfer window when you are in multiple competitions and players have already been kicked toward breakdowns in the first part of the season. This seems self-evident, and, now, affordable. The idea that quality won’t like staying on the bench is true on the face of it; but as a team game with championship aspirations, the need for quality in reserve is – under our circumstances – imperative.

  • bob

    Mandy,
    Sound reasoning. I’d like to build out from it.

    FACT: We are going to be kicked and kicked; and so it’s one identifiable root cause of our state. It may not be everything, but it is enough to attribute the extra high injury levels that we’ve endured.

    This said, the refshite/orcshite shows no sign of abatement. It doesn’t seem to matter a fig that it’s been pointed out ad that we are right. We are the unwanted guest at the (top of the) table.

    This said, if Walter’s stats do not finally lead to some kind of inquiry that counts (which it should, but is unlikely on the tilted playing fields of the EPL), then another sort of action must be taken.

    So let’s say not 1, 2 or maybe 3 signings (as you put it, but let’s say we need 3 high quality signings, for a quality reserve, that we know WILL be needed. We know it. It must be a given. It cannot be wished away, but faced.

    Given what we are up against – eyes wide open, not wishful thinking – I feel that we need to acquire enough in quality reserve to withstand ten men injured as actual normal. And we need to do this ruthlessly. Otherwise any championship aspiration (however romantic the vision of David vs. Goliath) will be futile.

    It’s a beautiful dream, but we cannot achieve it by spurning the winter windows and not spending unless it’s for top-top-top talent, and then losing out. There’s enough high calibre quality in reserve to acquire, and that means proactive spending with that larger squad in mind.