By Tony Attwood
As you might have noticed (if you ever read the home page of Untold Arsenal with its daily list of Arsenal anniversaries through the club’s history) today is both the ninth anniversary of the launch of Untold, and the anniversary of the meeting that AISA Arsenal History Society had with Rt Hon Jeremy Corbyn to launch “Woolwich Arsenal, the club that changed football” at the House of Commons. We also had with us at that meeting the great granddaughter of Jack Humble, one of the founders of Arsenal.
I was wondering what I could write to commemorate these two events – something perhaps a little lighthearted, noting the fact that Untold had survived for nine years, published some interesting books and generally ruffled a few feathers. Not a list of “we did this” but something lighter. Something amusing.
As I was pondering I had a look around the news accumulator services and I found one article that even now several hours after finding it, I still can’t believe has actually appeared not just on the internet (anything can appear there) but actually got listed by the veritable NewsNow service.
But honestly, this is real. (Incidentally I don’t think Goonernews covers this blog so good for them. Glad they have a bit of sense and style).
Anyway, here we go for our little birthday spot of fun and games. This really is a genuine article…
Arsenal are a team plagued with injuries every season. Nobody knows why it happens, is it a bad training programme, or is it simply bad luck? Whatever the reason, Wenger needs to recruit quickly this January transfer window, due to a very thin squad at present.
Shall we pick a hole or two in it, or should we just have a snigger? OK normally not a snigger, but because it was this sort of stuff that Untold was set up to counter and because birthdays are days when one can relax a bit, so let’s do an analysis.
“Arsenal are a team plagued with injuries”
This takes me back to the Guardian piece about Arsenal having only two players who got into double figures in the goal scoring charts last season. It was gibberish because 75% of teams didn’t have two players in double figures last season. So whereas the sentence looked negative, the truth behind the figures was positive from Arsenal’s perspective.
Injuries can be measured in many ways – number of player days lost, number of players out at any one time etc. We’ve done these analyses several times, and our game previews usually include the latest chart on the number of players out.
In general terms, Arsenal are in the upper part of the table for days lost and number of players out, but I’ve never seen us at the top of either chart. Mostly we are in the top half – I would say sixth place was about the norm this season. So yes it would be better to have fewer players injured for less time, but we’re certainly not the worst. Nor is this a plague.
The point made is that it is not just this season but every season. Back to… 1893 perhaps when we entered the league.
I don’t know anyone who has done such an analysis, but I know that yes, we have had injury problems over the years. For example in February 1959 the Arsenal programme stated…
At Sheffield we lost Jack Kelsey [he broke his arm] and with the loss went out Cup hopes for 1959. We then finished the League match against West Bromwich Albion with Henderson and Groves limping passengers, but still with a valuable point.
The problems which confronted our Manager before the Leeds game on Tuesday were probably as great as any faced by an Arsenal Manager when picking a team for one match. The following players were unavailable for selection:-
Kelsey, Standen (who had played so well at The Hawthorns), Clapton, Groves, Julians, Bloomfield, Henderson, Ward, Nutt and Skirton.
You can read more from that programme for the match against Man U in 1959 here.
But on occasions I can recall us having various times with zero or one player being injured. Of course nothing happening is not really news so doesn’t get recorded much, but “every season” – no that is simply not right. We did an analysis in January last year taking data from the BBC and Physioroom and Arsenal were a long way away from having the worst record. In fact the figures there showed Arsenal below average for injuries all season.
Well, some people claim they know. S. Robson Esq was given time by Danny Baker on Talk Sport to rant for ten minutes last summer about how it was totally Mr Wenger’s fault. He gave no evidence. And Raymond Verheijen has repeatedly made similar accusations and the Telegraph have oft repeated these without evidence.
But the point is what they “know” is not shown in the data, and we are still waiting for either of these esteemed nutters to put some data on the table.
Very thin squad
This is where it gets very funny. As our figures in September showed, Arsenal have a full squad of 25 registered senior players plus seven under 21s who are also in the first team squad (think Iwobi etc etc). What we also showed was that while we have a squad of 32 no club can match this. Indeed we are the only team with a full complement of the “25” players – as we pointed out, other clubs can’t get 25 because of the rule about including home grown players in the squad. They just can’t find enough home grown players, not even to make up the numbers.
We’re helped of course not just by the transfer policy of bringing in players who go into the first team squad, such as Xhaka, Perez and Mustafi last summer, but also the constant input of new youngsters. Holding is the most obvious latest recruit in this category, but we also brought in Kelechi Nwakali, and Takuma Asano. As we reported this week we’ve now added Cohen Bramall. We are seeing Maitland Niles emerge (a player who seemingly can play full back, midfield and on the wing), plus Le Jeff, and hopefully Akpom as he fully recovers from injury.
So rather than a very thin squad we have the thickest of squads.
Now of course one could argue about quality, but I’m going to leave that, because this articletta (ie a snippet found in a bloggetta) doesn’t go down that route, and I am staying with what the author says.
His solution to the perceived problem is this, “Loan deals are possibly the most appropriate way for Arsenal to recruit this transfer window… So a couple of loan deals would be ideal for Arsene, in order to fill in for the injuries at present.”
But loanees, unless under 21 years old, have to fit in the “25” so we need also to think who we are going to drop from the list when it is resubmitted at the end of the month. The author refrains from this.
Plus… why would a player come to Arsenal to fill in for an injured player? Why would his own club let him go?
But these are details, and this little piece is not very good on details. However as I raise a lunchtime cup of coffee in celebration of nine years of Untold Arsenal and five years since the launch of our revolutionary book on Woolwich Arsenal which totally and utterly re-wrote the early history of the club, I must thank the author of that piece, because it really did give me a chuckle.
Untold Arsenal and the Arsenal History Society… nine years old today
- The index of all the major articles on the site about Arsenal players is now complete. It comes in two parts: A to K L to Z Of course there are many other sources of articles on Arsenal players but I do like to think that the articles here add a lot more detail, and have often found stories and issues that have been missed in other reports. I do hope you will give us a try.