By Tony Attwood
That headline is, I confess at once, misleading. And one should not use misleading headlines. I know that because I wrote it in an article last week about selling via the post and email.*
But it is a headline that we used to see all the time. I’m not sure Untold has ever run it, but the national press and lots of other blogs were full of it, day after day. After day. Arsenal injury crisis.
It led to lots and lots of talk about why players got injured: the pitch, the refusal of the manager to listen to his own medical staff, the way referees allow our players to be hacked to bits, the deliberate targeting of fast moving Arsenal players by lumbering defenders, the over training of players…
We still talk a lot about referees, and their failure to deal with appalling assaults on the pitch which if carried out anywhere else in the country would lead to community service at best, prison at worst, for the perpetrator. But the rest… it is faded away.
Faded away indeed because at Arsenal there are now so few injuries.
At the moment, according to the physioroom.com website, the top teams in the injury charts are:
- 1st – Newcastle: 10 injured players
- 2nd – Swansea: 7 injured players
- 3rd – QPR: 6 injured players
- 4th – Southampton: 6 injured players
Down the foot of the table we have
- 15th – Burnley: 3
- 16th – Chelsea: 3
- 17th – C Palace: 3
- 18th – Stoke: 3
- 19th – Arsenal: 2
- 20th – WBA: 1
So does that mean that the opposition has stopped kicking us, or the refs have given our men more protection? If you read Untold regularly you will know that Blacksheep and I put forward that view at an Untold meeting in the pub recently, but figures from Walter and Andrew have proven us wrong. Arsenal players are still being kicked to pieces.
I honestly don’t know exactly what has happened, but I have come back to the issue, having dealt with it only a few weeks back, because the figures are suggesting that our move to the foot of the injury table are not just a one off blip. We’ve been here for a while now.
Our men out are Welbeck and Debuchy, and Debuchy is an interesting point that I think can show us a little more about what is going on.
I mentioned before that the injury table is only part of the story, in that how much the injuries affect the team depends on the size of the squad, the number of players in one position who are injured (remember, as ever, the Year of the Seven Left Backs), and the importance to the balance of the team of players who are out.
But there is another point here. The road from getting an injury to recovery is littered with set backs, as the Debuchy situation shows. One can guess that having had two major injuries this season, he was more anxious than ever to get back and reclaim his place. And his hamstring reacted.
How often have we seen this before. The player is out, comes back, and bang is out again.
Which is why the way around this is the big squad, so that no one is counting down the days until player x comes back. It puts pressure on the player to over-train, and that is, in my non-expert opinion, where the problem lies.
It is not so much the player being rushed back too soon by the management, but the player pushing himself too hard. For the individual, football, like all physical activity, (be it an another out and out sport like hurdling, or something quite different like playing the piano or dancing), is a combination of physical strength, adrenaline balance, mental strength and of course skill.
(And if you don’t think playing a musical instrument is a matter of physical strength try taking up an instrument and playing it for three hours a day, and see what happens.)
Now the skill is something you might be born with, and/or something you can develop over the years, but it is susceptible to change as a result of physical changes and what the brain and adrenaline stop doing.
So, get too worked up for an event (be it a match, a musical performance, a dance or anything else of that kind) can mean your whole system goes wrong. There is too much adrenaline, too much thinking, too much focus (as much of a problem as not enough focus) and things go wrong. The individual tries to compensate by focussing harder, but then that gets in the way of natural response, and next thing you know, you are injured.
Try to come back too fast, and the same combination can injure you again.
My point is that injuries are a spiral. Once they start the players who are out can try too hard to get back too quickly. The manager, short of players sees a medical report that says the player is fine, and brings the player back. An injury then happens again, either because the player was lying to the medical staff about feeling no pain, or having come back is trying too hard.
Just watch the film of Jack Wilshere coming on against Hull. He did an amazing run and got chopped down because he went too far. We were running the game, he could have passed earlier, but he was too eager to show why the team needs him.
Now, because of our squad strength and the lowness in the number of injuries, injured players are not rushed back into the team and I suspect the boss will have spoken to Jack to say, “do that again and you will get injured; do it again and I won’t play you until you start behaving more sensibly.” Or something like that.
Yes, Debuchy has been injured again, but we are coping without him, and hopefully through the summer he will relax and get his strength back.
Oxlade-Chamberlain is now fit again, but won’t be rushed in. He can train and develop his strengths once more.
So to me the injury crisis is mostly solved by the fact that Arsenal are able to tell players to take their time, and if they are too anxious to return, Arsenal can make them take their time.
*The classic misleading headline in email and postal marketing is “Free Sex and Chocolate”. Using that headline in a sales piece might have worked except that the advertiser then followed it up by saying, “Right, now I have your attention, I want to tell you about our special offer on garage doors this week…”
Anniversary of the day…
8 May 2002 Arsenal not only won the League in Manchester by beating Manchester United but also became the first team in over 100 years to go unbeaten all season away. League match 37 of the 3rd Double season. We win the league and the FA Cup Arsenal also set a new record for 8 consecutive away wins in Premier League – a record equalled on 28 September 2013… by Arsenal