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The question no journalist asked at the press conference.

By Tony Attwood

On 14 March various newspapers carried the story that Arsène Wenger had ordered an internal enquiry into why Arsenal have suffered such a disproportionately high number of injuries to the first team squad.

Nothing more was heard of this until last Friday when several papers carried reports on a further interview with Mr Wenger on this story.  In the words of the Guardian (which was one among many covering the tale) “Arsène Wenger has suggested that Arsenal’s injury problems might be related to his players taking legal supplements to enhance aspects of their lifestyle and performance without the knowledge of the club.”

There was a curious opening to this piece, which started, “The manager revealed last month that he had ordered an investigation into the club’s training methods and medical procedures in an effort to establish whether they could have avoided their latest injury crisis.”

That was odd because papers are not normally slow to take the credit for “revealing” all sorts, even if they are actually revealed by someone else, but maybe that was just a slip of the editor’s cut and paste technique.  The article went on to list the list we know only too well…   Aaron Ramsey, Theo Walcott, Mesut Özil, Jack Wilshere, Laurent Koscielny, Monreal.

Not just half the outfield, but the most important half.

The report said that the review hadn’t really got to any hard and fast conclusions, but Mr Wenger’s own theory was that “Some of them [muscle injuries] are down to the medication that the players take that you don’t even know about. Then you realise afterwards that they took this medication but that’s not prudent.”

What happened then was odd, for at this point the journalists asked for examples of medication, and Mr Wenger gave one in relation to medication for treatment of hair loss.   This is the bit of the story that got all the coverage in those papers that bothered to report the piece at all.

But what was not reported here, but was clearly on Arsenal’s mind when the enquiry was launched in March was why Arsenal get so many more injuries than players at other clubs.
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This is interesting, because it demands that one analyses contact injuries sustained in games, and injuries that occur during training, or in games but without contact.
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One can understand Mr Wenger not mentioning this delicate fact, because the figures show that Arsenal are way above everyone else when it comes to injuries sustained from fouls during a match.  To mention this is to suggest that Arsenal players are fouled more than other club’s players (which the vast amount of stats published on this site clearly show) and to do that suggests that the referees are not doing their jobs in protecting Arsenal players (something Mr Wenger is certainly not going to do in a press conference, as it would lead to a banning order).
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But what is so fascinating here is that no one in the press seems to have asked the question, or written a piece about this.  Even if Mr Wenger had offered a non-committal answer the paper could then have speculated, which is what more of them spend most of their time doing anyway.
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Clearly the press is not going to be banned for asking, nor is it going to be banned from a match for suggesting that Arsenal players are tripped, kicked, elbowed etc etc more than those of other clubs – as the stats show.
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So why not raise the issue?
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It is an interesting point, and takes us back to the early days of Arsène Wenger at Arsenal, when the press ran their daily tally of the number of red cards that Arsenal players got.
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It was an interesting ploy because throughout, the papers only announced the number of red cards Arsenal got – without giving a league table across all clubs.  Even now, with many more stats around I can’t find a historical analysis club by club.  You can work it out from the stats which are available player by player, but not club by club.
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This figure (as in “20 red cards since Wenger took over”) was the mantra heard from every pundit and within every paper report, before Untold pointed out how untrue it all was, and the press went over to the number of years without a trophy.  And of course the technique is the same – say it often enough and people don’t think about anything other than the repeated item.
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So no one said, “OK if Arsenal have had 20 red cards, how many has each other club had?”   No that’s wrong, because actually a lot of people said it, but the papers didn’t publish it.
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But let’s come back to this story.  Mr Wenger said originally that he was looking into why Arsenal got so many injuries – and we know that the one area where Arsenal get many more injuries than other clubs is contact injuries during games.
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So we are looking for something specific to Arsenal – something that singles Arsenal out from the rest.  Mr Wenger did not suggest that Arsenal players use more legal supplements than players in other teams (which would be bizarre), so the whole story was a bit of a non-story – because the press refused to ask “what singles Arsenal out?”
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Thus we are left with the problem, why did the press run this story without actually asking, “why do Arsenal get so many injuries?”  They will know, because of the stats produced, that it is not because of the training methods, because the non-contact injuries and injuries off the pitch, as these are not the highest in the league.
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Why would no highly paid and skilled journalist from any single paper ask this simple question – either of Mr Wenger, or rhetorically within the subsequent article?
Why do Arsenal get so many more contact injuries during games, than players of other teams?
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We asked, and through Walter’s analysis, Untold answered.  But no one else seems to want to know.

21 comments to The question no journalist asked at the press conference.

  • goonergerry

    Given the number of long-term injuries that were not directly caused by fouls- Jack Wilshire’s long term problems, Ramsey,Chamberlain, Podolski, Walcott,Ozil, Monreal- and looking at consistently lethargic performances in key games of those who are fit- questions should be asked not just about Arsenal’s fitness regime but also about the whole playing regime adopted by Arsene Wenger. How much running does each player do playing the Wenger way? How does that compare with others? How frequently do they have to play? Are there enough good players to compete in 4 competitions? Is Arsenal’s lack of willingness to replace quality players resulting in the good players being over used and burnt out? These are just as important questions as the number of fouls conceded.

    There needs to be a great deal more transparency and accountability for the end of season collapse. The buck stops with Arsene Wenger at arsenal.

  • ClockEndRider

    GoonsrGerry,
    May I suggest you reread the article as you seem to be falling foul of exactly the error that Tony is describing above. Let the article sink in for a while and have a think about it.

  • John

    Yesterday’s game contained numerous examples of fouls which were likely to cause injuries, which were either ignored by the ref, or inadequately dealt with (ie free-kick, but no card.)

    No wonder Giroud is not being effective. He must be sick of being constantly fouled. Sanogo got the same treatment when he came on.
    Sagna, Cazorla, Artete and Ramsey were all targetted.

    Of course, no mention in the Press, which is salivating over the prospect of us coming 5th. Also, no mention of Naismith, off-side and interfering with play, completely blocking our keeper’s sight line (Newcastle had a goal disallowed for a less conclusive situation of this kind, but, of course, that was against Man City, for whom rules are different). No mention of foul on Sagna leading to 3rd goal (Guardian states that Sagna was “dispossesed”). No mention that Sanogo goal wrongly disallowed.

    Yes, our team played poorly. However, but for these wrong decisions, we might have got a result. (ie showing the mark of potential champions by picking up points whilst not playing well, according to the press cliche which is regularly applied to Man U and others.)

    As an aside, it will be interesting to see the season total of Liverpool penalties. I have lost count, but I think that it’s 5 from the last 2 away matches alone. As for crucial off-side decisions favouring Man City, that’s another story on its own. I recall the 2 (at least) in our game, the disallowed Tiote goal (see above) as well as the latest against Southampton.

  • WalterBroeckx

    It is strange whenever we talk about Wilshere people tend to pretend that it has nothing to do with contact.
    My daughter in law who is a doctor has said me that stress fractures in the foot from football players is mostly caused by kicking on the foot where the bones are absorbing the shocks and that can lead to small ‘hair fractures’ and later on result in broken bones.

    Before Wilshere had his first serious foot injury he hardly had any injuries at all. Since his injury he has had 8 other foot injuries.
    The last one was clearly caused by a kick on the foot causing a broken bone.

    The long term problems from Wilshere come from being kicked on his foot and ankle over and over and over and over again.
    And let us not forget that the first injury was caused when Jack was fouled in the penalty area when a player stepped on his foot. No foul as given of course as we don’t do penalties for Arsenal in general.
    But it was a clear step on his foot that caused that first severe injury and since then the problems he has had with his foot.

  • Matt

    Whenever if feel down about football and i can guarantee coming on this site will give me a good laugh and cheer me up. Thanks Tony & Walter.

  • nicky

    I am more concerned about what is proposed at the Emirates in order to alleviate the problem.
    I will accept any of the reasons put forward, because Walter’s stats speak the truth.
    Now, remedial action must be determined and put into being.

  • Jax

    Yes John, we wuz robbed!

  • bjtgooner

    One of the reasons I do not like Martinez is that his teams have always kicked the crap out of us, with the connivance of the refs. It is as if Martinez has been allowed to join the establishment and been told what he can get away with against Arsenal.

    John is right, Everton got away with a lot yesterday, Berkley should have been off and possibly Naysmith also. In addition to many not given fouls we were denied a good goal and a clear penalty. Many of the fouls we received were deliberate, designed to hurt – and even if the player receiving such fouls is not immediately injured, there is an accumulative damaging effect.

    Instead of people using up their energy campaigning against our manager they should be targeting the source of the problem – Riley. Of course, those who target our manager have an agenda incompatible with fair play.

  • Eboshie

    Well said, bjtgooner. Luckily, I watched every bit of the game on TV and I couldn’t add or take even the dot off your i(eye) from all that you’ve said. You know what, Arsenal’s supposedly recent crises i.e. – injuries; poor performance(s); rues etc…., is nothing compared to the ongoing self-sustaining damage the entire Media with it’s poisonous concoctions of negative(biased) mantra is inflicting on the myopic Arsenal fan(Hell NO!, not talking about any supporter here). How difficult is it to show even replays(when it comes to unfair decisions against Arsenal)…..Even when we are lucky to see these replays, you can but only realise the commentator(s) struggling for their words or dictating some kind of baseless history.

  • Mick

    ‘To mention this is to suggest that Arsenal players are fouled more than other club’s players (which the vast amount of stats published on this site clearly show)’
    Tony/Walter are our players fouled more than players from other clubs according to official figures of fouls actually blown for, or from Walters post match assessments in the ref reviews? If the ‘official’ fouls show Arsenal suffer more than others it would make for a very interesting investigation as to why and how this is happening. Unfortunately we are Arsenal and it would be unacceptable for the football establishment to arrive at the unpalatable truth, hence the refusal to seek the truth, it would be a different story if it were one of the favoured clubs who was suffering.
    Apologies in advance to Matt, Rupert etc for coming across as paranoid and delusional!

  • GGY

    as the biggest and most popular club in London to me it is clear that the media have an agenda against us. I noticed how happy every pundit, ex player, journalist were to see us lose yesterday. You can pretty much guarantee that the whole country will be rooting for everton to finish above us

  • Max

    For the sake of humanity and for what’s good in the human mind, I suggest you go and read arseblog today. The perfectly balanced article you will find. He sums it up perfectly, Wenger wins the FA Cup then walks. Dare he lose on Saturday then it’s game set and match.

  • ARSENAL 13

    hmmmm…

    One question I would like answered is “What legal supplements do other clubs use??”

    Have you seen Chelsea young players. They have a bulky lowerbody. Which looks artificial to me.

  • Gouresh

    I am sure Egornino or red nose never thought about being banned for saying that the ref was crap. there are a lot of ways to say that without actually saying it. surly AFC have the resources to conduct their own study on why our playes get injured. if not i am sure that they about this site and and ask Walter / Tony for their input. I am sure they will be happy to oblidge. the same thing happened with the penalty / sending off at the hellsea game. it was evident that the main ref got instructions from the 4th offical which is against the law. here was great chance to sqweeze their balls. my question is why did AFC not make a big noise about this? i am sure the others would!! if you tell me that AFC is working behind closed doors, i doubt that because its clearly not working. i would love to see AFC go on the offensive on such issues. bang on about the ref decisions, the rotational fouling, the targetting of our players etc. it looks like if you don’t shout about it you won’t be heard. at least it be in the press and the next time we have strange decisions, the people can point out and say “AFC did say this happens”. another way of banging on about this is having our AFC TV channel, where you can analyis the games, show how the ref’s are shafting us.

  • Quincy

    Not directly related, but an interesting article on ‘tactical fouling’ from 2012 I came across:
    http://espn.go.com/sports/soccer/story/_/id/7751110/michael-cox-punishment-fit-crime-tactical-fouls

    Glad to see someone is arguing this needs to be clamped down on; as well as diving, I might add. The stubborn refusal to use technology is utterly baffling. When watching a game on tv we get replays within a few seconds, in slow motion, from several angles. It would only take 20 or so seconds to confirm a decision with a television official. But of course, that would leave them with not room for corruption.

    The writer also suggest a ‘sin bin’, like they have in rugby, an excellent idea. Many players are happy to pick up a yellow card for a cynical foul to break up a counter-attack. FIFA could introduce an orange card for offences like cynical fouls and diving, where the player is sent off the field for 10 minutes as punishment. But seeing as this is an incredibly sensible view, you can be sure FIFA will reject it out of hand.

  • SouthernGunner

    Interesting point. I think there’s another side to the injury stats, which I’ve mentioned before in recent weeks. The stats for clubs & individual players who cause these fouls go hand in hand with the injury tables, as the same players tend to be the ones causing injury to the opposition. The journalists & pundits certainly haven’t done a good enough job shedding light on this topic, so perhaps it’s left to the blogs to take the initiative.

    Just this weekend gone, Charlie Adam was involved in two dangerous challenges against Chelsea players. He’s been involved in similar incidents in previous seasons, Gareth Bale being on of them when he was at Spurs. But he’s not the only one.

    It’s not necessarily about finger pointing either. The point is that it’s in the best interest for all players & clubs to get to the bottom of this issue. The players can avoid injury trhough dangerous play whilst the would be culprits will get less cards/send offs & play more. It’s win-win all round.

  • soglorious

    Tony, thanks for the article. One obvious fact that runs through my mind is that ” Arsenal is simply hated ” I still don’t know the reason even though the evidences are obvious – fouls, media, unfriendly fans etc. All I ask is Why?

  • para

    I am starting to think that if refs can be bribed (or blackmailed?) to influence games, then so can players. Of course players have thrown games, but also, players are well versed in fouling with intent to hurt, and can target certain players in a team.
    Now some may say that’s too much, but i say it’s not always money that makes people do things, but a little knowledge of someone can do that also, may it be some piece of knowledge used to blackmail. (“I am not sure if threats are a possibility at this time”)

    Since we know that this agenda against Arsenal is not localised, but nationalised or even global, it stands to reason that the resources are much bigger and better, and the efforts will stop short of nothing to fulfill their plan.

    A lot of suggestions are posted here which Arsenal can try, but i am also wondering if Arsenal is also under the thumb a little. See, i cannot explain why our team, which is a good team, a lot of people do not see that, can play so world class one day, and a week later play like a pub team,
    with only one or at the most two players changed.

    Maybe this is the reason why AW does not rotate, if it is going to cause that much of an effect.
    I always think AW is building a team that can play at any position in a flash, not for a prolonged time, but in many critical moments. Now i do not know if the forwards have to defend in training, but i would think so.

    My thoughts on why Arsenal is hated, run through many different scenarios but i am convinced, like many of you, that it is real. Still the only thing that should be able to stop us is how we play, and this way the efforts to stop us would become that much more APPARENT and could not be covered up that easily.

    Unless, that is, that Arsenal is forced to toe some sort of line too.
    Food for thought, at least for me.

  • Yassin

    People please go back to the Everton gamr and look how we defended the 3rd goal, and they defended all game, they go really physical ( and against the law ), while we try to do it cleanly. With them not scared of our offence, they can go with two more forward minded player, which get the advantage over us. Thia is the same tactics against stoke, chelsea, and to less against Liverpool and wba.
    We have seem it for years but now its too obvious.
    BTW, are u deluded Walter/Tony, how would u want journalist to see those fouls when our own fan (who should be biased to Arsenal) cant see it.
    If Wenger is to leave this year, I would love to see him take another team in another league, and show the world what great football we were deprived from.

  • Zedsaunt

    It could be argued that Mr Wenger’s greatest failing as a manager has been not to generate a campaign, with all the resources of Arsenal FC behind him, to bring the FA, the Football League, Riley and the referees, into a court on charges of negligence.

    The football authorities in England have failed in their duty of care and should be prosecuted for it.

    Obviously Mr Wenger might feel that such a campaign could not be sustained by him. He would be seen as a ‘French coward.’ He would be seen as a ‘p**fter.” He would be seen as breaking the unwritten law of English sport – it starts and ends in the first World War trenches.

    The English are not cowards. They will take it all the way up them, generation after generation. Who is Mr Wenger to change it? Mr Wenger has to ensure an environment in which the team he manages might stand a chance.

    What Untold has highlighted will eventually lead to change because the stats on the injuries sustained in the games only point in one direction.

  • finsbury

    The Gnabster @foreverheady

    Has made the following observation:

    “No team playing The Arsenal have received a red card this season. The Arsenal are top of this season’s injury list. What might Sherlock say?”