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October 2016
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Arsenal face major injury crisis

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 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


23 comments to Arsenal face major injury crisis

  • nicky

    While I must accept the facts presented by Walter and Andrew, nevertheless I get the impression, of late, that we are receiving fairer treatment from the very referees, criticised in the past for outrageous bias against our great Club.
    That is not to say that all is well. Advisedly, I have used the word “fairer” not “fair”. 😉

  • Pete

    Welbeck and Debuchy, yes. But Arteta, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Diaby don’t appear to be available for selection either. To my mind an injury is only “over” when a player is explicitly available for selection again?

    5 then has us towards the higher end of the League again – unless other teams are similarly impacted of course which I don’t know.

  • esxste

    I think the difference of late is that the outrageous tackles themselves are not causing injuries.

  • TailGunner

    Not a lot’s made of it, but we’re not number one in the injury lists this season. That dubious honour goes to Man U with 68 two ahead of us and ( would you believe it ) Stoke.

  • Nonny

    Misleading words abound in the press regularly but that’s a discussion for another day. Ramsey was said to have gotten a knock on Monday. What’s his current situation.

    Off topic, can you please tell me the current situation in La liga I read last night that Madrid and Barca players are supporting the strike but that LFP is threatening to sue AFE and RFEF

  • bob mac

    Arsene is managing the injured players in a superb way; end of story.

  • SamuelAkinsolaAdebosin

    I want to say that the Boss should not start Aaron Ramsey against Swansea on Monday night should he be still short physically to play in that game. Even if he insists to play, the Boss should keep him for the very important game away to Man Utd. Since Jack Wilshere has proved at Hull that he is now fit to play at the top level, I think the Boss can start him against Swansea. And he could be only change the Boss should introduce to his now balance starting XI of: Ospina…Bellerin Rhino’KoscielnyMonreal. CoquelinCazorla. SanchezWilshereOzil. Giroud. I think Cazorla will pair Coquelin behind the back 4 and also attack centrally behind Wilshere who will attack forwardly behind Olivier Giroud. Who is going to cover Wilshere as a Sub? Because he may not be able to play strongly to the end of the game. Would the Boss for the first time this season play Abou Diaby as Wilshere’s cover and brings on to play? Jack should not be overzealous with his playing to avoid been unnecessarily injured. So too is Abou Diaby.

  • para

    Nicky i do too get the same impression that they are somewhat(a little) fairer and i like to think it is because of Untold highlighting the issue.

    Watch this:

    B05Videos makes some good vids about Arsenal.

  • Rosicky@Arsenal

    I guess Ramsey is also not available for Monday. So possibly Theo and Rosicky should start.

    People who want Rosicky to be sold should realize if Cazorla or Ozil are injured than he is the ideal cover for them in the AM role and hopefuly we can rely on him for one more year atleast as he has proven in all the matches he has played this year his performance has always been par exelence.

  • finsbury

    As even the Arseblogger could admit, the follow through by Huddlestone on Ramsey was completely intentional and deliberate and therefore yet again Arsenal lose a key player to injury caused by a clearly obvious and OTT dangerous foul that even amatuers can spot but the official deliberatley ignored.

    Incapable of simply blowing the whistle: Hull also applied the tactic of just kicking AFC players as they ran away from them – quite a contrsat to the code applied in the midweek CL games, one tie which was administered by a PGMOB offical but it appears he was using a different code to his games in the PL, which is odd. When AFC play under PGMOB jurisdiction are we watching a different sport? It appears to be the case and is therefore a reasonable question.

    PGMOB Rules Football, “Game Management”, it is what it is, bells and whistles attached.

    AFC players injured by OTT clear fouls what weren’t even called in 2014/15 alone:

    Debuchy (twice)
    Schezzer (ManU Home game)
    Ozil? (the kick from Ivanovic? or just post WC fatigue or a combo?)
    BFG was a doubt but managed to recover the other week after a good old clumping.

    There’s more, but i can’t be arsed, anyway that list is already far too long!
    Add in last season’s casulties and the resultant impact upon the squad this season (e.g.: not enough cover during the Xmas cruch resulting in niggles for Chambo and Welbeck) and then you will start to see the bigger picture.

  • finsbury

    As far as i can tell, which might not be vary far, all yo have to do is keep an eye on a players’ follow through when tackling.
    There’s a reason why the great defenders never injure their opponents too badly.

    That tackle by Chiellini on Ronaldo the other night was calibrated and controlled. It requires stamina strength and agility to make tackle safely whilst still picking up the obvious yellow. If he wanted to follow through like Huddlestone he could have, but he didn’t.

    The PGMOB officials are fooling no one.

  • Gord

    I don’t think this getting injured on the tails of recovery is quite the explanation.

    Let’s look at track, in particular 100m and hurdles. There is very little unusual that can happen in a 100m race, and so the athlete can train to a much higher fraction of their ultimate ability. And for them, reinjury is probably much like you describe.

    In hurdles, a little unusual can happen in a race, so the athletes need more reserve strength beyond that required to run the race in X time, just in case something unusual happens. When a person first gets injured, the concentration is on recovering what is needed to run fast. As recovery proceeds, one has to recover the reserve strength as well.

    The test would be to compare the recovery for 100m and hurdles, to see if hurdles takes longer, or has a higher probability of reinjury.

    Football would be like hurdles, except more so. More reserve is needed to withstand getting kicked.

  • Menace

    Fairer? – no such thing when it comes to PGMO. The simple truth is that we have been lucky in recent games. Against Hull, Jack was asking to be fouled & Dawson obliged. Ramsey was kicked by a crafty ‘sideways jump’ that the ‘blind mice’ didn’t see. This set of matches are critical to our season as they impact our FA cup final. We need to win each game without injury. Let us see how well behaved the PGMO are.


  • Tom

    “It is not so much the player being rushed back too soon by the management, but the player pushing himself too hard”

    Any player coming back from a long term injury is being closely monitored in his rehab and when he resumes training as well.

    How intensive his training is or isn’t , is not up to the player.
    Players don’t go to some private facilities and train harder than they should outside of Arsenal coaches’ supervision in order to come back sooner.

    Debuchy’s case is probably one where the player wasn’t match fit enough to go 120 minutes against Reading in his first appearance since his shoulder injury.

    Combine this with the energy sapping Wembley pitch, and it’s a little surprise Debuchy’s hamstring went.

    Even though Arsene Wenger said, Debuchy as the French international , should be able to handle a 120 minutes in his first game back. Obviously it wasn’t an ideal scenario for the player’s come back.
    Mind you, Debuchy only resumed light training a month before the Reading game.

    Not having Bellerin on the bench against Reading ( a minor knock) forced Arsene’s hand in keeping Debuchy on for the entire game.

    This is not dissimilar with the Walcott ACL last season , when he played in 6 games in 21 days coming back from his abdomen injury.

    Before I get some angry responses that I’m picking on Arsene Wenger, I’m not.

    All managers do it when either under pressure or short of options.

    Pellegrini did it wit Aguero , and Mourinho did it with Costa just a few weeks back.
    Costa came back from his hamstring injury too soon after declared by Chelsea physios match fit.

  • para

    Menace, i’ll bet there are people who cannot remember the last penalty Arsenal got before the recent one, which surprised us all so much that we all rose SCREAMING: We got a penalty, (insert strong word here) Arsenal got a penalty. 🙂

  • arse_or_brain

    as many have already pointed out if a player is not available for selection then he is injured and so two is incorrect. although physio room has been doing this all season even when they said we had loads of players out they still managed to miss players out.

  • @Swales1968

    @Finsbury the Ozil injury was not helped by the continued and unpunished kicking he got from Manson the weekend before during the Spurs game.

    The non given foul and injury that is most annoying was the Wilshere one against MUFC, it was late, it was right in front of the ref and he just ignored it. Arsenal fans with an agenda against JW and of Wenger point to the amount of time JW has missed through injury but conveniently ignore how he picked up these injuries. When pointed out I and others are accused of just seeing what we want to see to make a point about ‘how the refs have cost us games’ or ‘JW only gets injured because of late tackles’. They ignore the facts and blindly go on with their own agendas posting on social media or even worse calling up talksprout to chat to Hadrian Cumbria and Karen Cough saying that most fans want JW out of the club because of his poor injury record.

  • Al

    Swales, finsbury and others
    You’re absolutely right, our players’ injuries are a result of vicious attacks with the refs doing nothing. This season we lost key players such as Debuchy, Ozil, Jack for more than three months to brutal tackles. At the same the assailants, Arnautovic, Mason and McNair respectively, didn’t even miss one game. Huddlestone may well have ended Ramsey’s season with that tackle, and yet he’ll be featuring for Hull’s next match. I read somewhere where Gattusso is claimed to have said the only way to stop Messi is to kick him. He may have been joking but do these ex pros need to realise they’re being a bad influence on youngsters who will grow up to be thugs on a football pitch.

  • Al

    ….at the same time the assailants….

  • Mandy Dodd

    Maybe Shad helping out with a few new ideas. Some of our players seem to have bulked up. Perhaps Coq offering a layer of protection

  • finsbury

    @ swales & Al

    Yes, old Deano/Gollum at his finest trying to play advantage where there was none, as if he doesn’t know the rules!

  • finsbury

    Gattuso fans can try and kick Messi if they like.

    I’d only be concerned if the officials started to ignore simple and obvious hacks in every game, game after game. The kind of hacks that were outlawed from Ass.Football C1850, the kind of hacks which you won’t see in Gazprom games against Gazprom players, becasue they receive protection. For some strange reason.

    Don’t believe me? Go and count how many pelanties Gazprom won this season through obvious dives! They won the title in their last game with an obvious and dare I say it a predictable and slightly boring dive. 🙂
    They are not called boring boring gazprom for the reasons that most of their defenders at Newscorp imagine: they are called boring boring gazprom because most people can see right through their game.

  • Sleekwhale

    Our boys need to know when to pull out of challenges when they can predict an abnormal impact.