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By Bulldog Drummond
Ahead of the Bournemouth match Arsenal are said to be in a total injury crisis of the type that was generally associated with Arsene Wenger in the past.
Indeed during the Wenger era in fact there was a constant desire to blame the injuries Arsenal got on Arsene Wenger’s ignorance of how to train players properly and his overplaying of certain players. There was of course never any evidence to back up such nonsense, but the comment in the Guardian on 30 November 2015 was typical: “Arsenal do not rest enough in between heavy sessions, and Wenger brings injured players back too soon and does not manage their reintegration, hence the young “core” of regular injured players. What do we have then? A higher than average injury rate.”
So is it Arteta’s fault just as it was Wenger’s? Here are the numbers provided today by the Premier League Injuries website for the ten clubs in the Premier League with the most injuries. And yes Arsenal are in the top ten, but for the moment are just in sixth place. Most of the clubs with the most injured players are in the lower part of the league.
- Chelsea: 11 players out
- Manchester United: 11 players out
- Sheffield United: 10 players out
- Crystal Palace: 9 players out
- Newcastle United: 9 players out
- Arsenal: 8 players out
- Tottenham Hotspur: 8 players out
- Brentford: 7 players out
- Burnley: 7 players out
- AFC Bournemouth: 6 players out
There seems to be only a slight link between club position and the number of injuries – and it is interesting that few journalists seem to be piling into Tottenham by suggesting something is wrong with them having exactly the same number of players out as Arsenal.
Here are the Arsenal injury details
Thomas Partey: Currently being assessed and ruled out for this weekend.
Gabriel Martinelli: Expected to have a late fitness test before the Bournemouth game
Leandro Trossard: As with Martinelli, there will be a late fitness test, but he’s estimated at only 25% likely to play
Declan Rice: He also will have the fitness test and he hadn’t trained as of yesterday but is currently rated as having a 75% chance of playing this weekend.
Bukayo Saka: As with the others there is the dreaded late fitness test and his chances are rated as only 50%.
William Saliba: He’s on a 75% chance of playing after getting a knock in the last game
Fabio Vieira: Having not been involved in the last game there’s a chance he could be ok for this weekend. He’s also rated 75%.
Jurrien Timber: I’m not sure if he has had his operation for the anterior cruciate ligament, but either way, he’s out for a long time.
So it is a bad list of injuries, and obviously it is a lot worse than West Ham United who appear to have only one player out. But there is no direct relationship between the number of injuries a club has and its position in the league.
As for fouls causing injuries, we can see in the table below the number of fouls against Premier League clubs in league matches ranges from 50 (Sheffield United) to 77 (Brighton and Hove).
There is a hint of a relationship between the number of goals scored and the number of fouls against but it is not a very precise relationship. The top-scoring clubs are listed in the table below in red and the top injury clubs in blue.
So while as we would expect the top-scoring clubs are generally near the top of the league, the clubs that are fouled the most are dotted around the league. Only Newcastle and Tottenham can be considered in any way both a high scoring club and a high injury level club at the moment.
However, there is more of a link than we might expect between clubs that are fouled more rarely, and which have few injuries. West Ham, Everton, and Nottingham Forest have hardly any injured players and the number of fouls against them is comparatively small in each case.
But the links are not always perfect. Sheffield United have ten players injured but only 50 fouls against them this season.
Now we might argue that highly attack-orientated teams get more injuries and are fouled more often but the link turns out to be quite tenuous. The most injuries and most fouls against are shown in red: the link is tenuous.
|3||Brighton and Hove Albion||18||8||10||15||4||77|
|7||West Ham United||11||10||1||10||1||57|
The matter of why some clubs are fouled so much more than others (Brighton players have been fouled 45% more than Manchester United players for example) is hard to explain, although it might well be that players of other teams don’t expect Brighton to have much skill, and when they find they are facing better players than they expect they resort to more fouling – but really that could be stretching possibiliity a bit far.
So we can say that fewer injuries can help a club stay near the top of the league, but this doesn’t directly relate to how often they are fouled by the opposition.
But the result of injuries can be devastating for as the Athletic has pointed out “At the end of that draw” (last weekend), “Arsenal had a team of players off the pitch which looked much more interesting than the one on it, the tantalizing absent XI being: Ramsdale; Partey, Tomiyasu, Kiwior, Timber; Vieira, Rice, Trossard; Saka, Jesus, Martinelli.
The fact that no one quite knows what is going on here was indeed summarised by the Athletic when their writer added, “In the 2005-06 season, the most remarkable thing about Arsenal’s run to the Champions League final is that they did it using six left-backs (plus more still in domestic competition). The list of those who served includes some games for Pascal Cygan, a big, bald centre-half not known for his speed on the turn, two right-backs on the wrong side, and Mathieu Flamini, a hyperactive midfielder who loved organising people on the pitch. Maybe these experiments were early versions of the inverted-fusion-deep-lying-free-wheeling-full-back positions of today. Who knew?”
Indeed who knew? But we do know that losing some players can be a disaster (Saliba for example) but not always. The problem is, the club can’t have a brilliant back-up and not play him – he’ll want to leave.
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