By Tony Attwood
You might recall, if you have a very good memory, that back in January we reported that The Independent claimed that “Arsenal suffer most injuries”. Untold did quite a lot of work on that data and our headline added the phrase to their headline “after using obviously faked data”
There were so many inaccuracies in the data that it would be tedious beyond measure to go through it all but among the highlights, or maybe lowlights, we found that players who were out on loan at the time of their injury were counted as Arsenal players for the period of the injury, and some players were injured for more than 52 weeks a year.
It was obvious because the list of so-called Arsenal injuries for 2015/16 included Carl Jenkinson being out for 37 weeks, when in fact he was on loan to West Ham and suffered his knee injury on 23 January 2016, after playing 20 games for the club, which meant that even if in some odd way he was to be quoted as an Arsenal player for the season he was out for 15 weeks of the season, not 37. But he wasn’t an Arsenal player.
Danny Welbeck was listed as being out for 56 weeks in the 2015/16 season. Which is quite interesting given that last time I looked a year had 52 weeks, and a season around 40 weeks.
Now that set of cock ups might have made you think that this would have done away with the subject once and for all, but no its back with “OFFICIAL: Arsenal have been by far the most injured team in recent Premier League history”
That is in the Daily Mirror, although there is no explanation of what makes the figures “official”. However we do find that the data came from Sky, so plodding over to their website page containing the data (which the Mirror rather unhelpfully does not give us a link to, but instead contains a link to elsewhere – itself the first sign that something odd is going on) we find “Total days of injured players during seasons since 2011/12”
|West Bromwich Albion||5,851|
Now sadly there is no explanation of how the numbers were arrived at (they just claimed they added up the Physioroom figures), but they do look suspiciously like the figures that were presented previously in part in the Independent. Which means Arsenal layers injured on loan are counted as Arsenal injuries – the Jenkinson effect.
This refusal to give the details of the data makes it very hard to check what has been going on. But we do know that physioroom, which is quoted in match previews by Bulldog Drummond for each game, is often high inaccurate with players listed as injured suddenly turning up in games, or on the beach, or in the under 23s.
For example today it shows Gibbs as being injured with a knock – but there is no knowledge of whether that is an injury or not. A knock is awfully vague.
Ah, the counter argument goes, but surely this applies to all teams. Oh yes, surely it all evens out in the end if the same source is applied. Just like referee decisions.
But no, it doesn’t because these figures are those reported by the club, plus added to by physioroom for players who are noted as not playing for a long time.
Further as we have seen over recent years, Arsenal generally get much closer to having 25 players over the age of 21 registered than any other club, along with more under 21 youngsters who are truly part of the first team squad. Because of this, Arsenal are able to stay with players who are regularly injured but highly talented, in the hope that their injury problems will be overcome – rather than letting them go, as other clubs do.
If we take Abou Diaby and Jack Wilshere as examples, they have both shown great talent, and Arsenal tried to stay with them, for the simple reason that Arsenal had cover for them, because it had 25 players over 21, instead of just 21 or 22 as most teams had. And Arsenal had more under 21s who were seriously ready to play for the club.
Now we can add in to this the fact that other clubs have used other methods of coping with injury. Chelsea for example keep a much smaller squad of senior players and don’t tend to retain injured players, instead holding over 30 players who are loaned out to overseas clubs. Other clubs have neither system and hope for the best.
Thus we have a whole range of problems with these stats. First, the previous round of stats gave us the Jenkinson problem, and this set of data does not give us the evidence we need to see whether it is using the same mistaken database as that provided by the Independent.
Second Arsenal has a bigger squad than other teams and so can afford to hold on to injured players without it affecting the squad. If we had transferred Diaby three years earlier the number of days lost would have had a vast number of days removed from the chart and slipped down to a mid position. It didn’t affect Arsenal because we were not likely to buy another player, but it enhanced our reputation as a humane and helpful club, and made players of all ages respect the club as an institution that would treat them reasonably.
Indeed if we look at Sky’s own figures for this season, we can see where Arsenal stands without Diaby and Wilshere, two players the club worked hard to help.
|Club||Days injured 2016/17|
|West Ham United||1,574|
|West Bromwich Albion||389|
Squad size obviously plays a large part here – but then so does reporting methods used by each club. If you watch Physioroom each week it is clear that players are simply not reported as injured to physioroom, either because the clubs are not co-operating with the site, or because they are trying to keep the opposition guessing. Indeed if you look at WBA’s low figures, and compare with players who suddenly don’t appear for certain matches, it is clear that injuries with them are being “discovered” just on the day of a game.
These figures from Sky show the total days missed during seasons, since start of 2011/12
As you can see Arsenal are at numbers one and two, which is another reason why on Sky’s chart Arsenal have come in top of the league (assuming the Jenkinson issue of having players injured for more than 52 weeks a year comes into play – and given the lack of data we have been supplied it might well have done – we just don’t know).
Basically figures without all the background data, and without any explanation of different approaches to the issue from different clubs are, in essence, not very helpful.