The Untold Injury records – Part 5.2: Bashing Özil Bashing Wenger

By Walter Broeckx

This part of the injury series could be written from the injury view but also is standing in a very strong relation with the constant anti-Arsenal bashing and anti-Wenger bashing from the media.

In the light of the hamstring injury that Mesut Özil suffered early in the match against Bayern the media reacted first as if their nose was bleeding and they just got on Özil’s back saying he was lazy, stealing a living, and other nice things. They hardly mentioned that he got injured early in the game tried to carry on and help the team but at half time had to be replaced.

The next step the media then took was digging up someone who was willing to lay the blame on Wenger. And of course for a handful of money they can find enough candidates to do this job. Raymond Verheijen was the man for the blame it on Wenger job this time.

He blamed Wenger and his training methods and said that this was the reason for the injury record and he even went in detail about the injury Walcott sustained. But the message was because Wenger trains his team as ‘marines’ they would suffer from that after a few months.

Now I know that Verheijen worked with a few clubs but he mostly worked for national teams in his career as well as attending 3 world cups and 3 European championships. As you know nationals teams are the teams that take players from clubs, make them play unnecessary and meaningless games from which they suffer overload and then send them back to their clubs where they finally get injured.  So really the right man to be critical about clubs and their training methods.

And he called the training regime as bad and the people who are responsible (read Wenger) for it as incompetent. I know that apart from Guus Hiddink who seems to like him many people in Holland call Verheijen arrogant. And for other Dutchmen call a fellow country man arrogant… it must mean something. As the perception in Belgium is that all Dutch people are arrogant. An opinion I don’t agree with at all by the way but it is the general perception that not only lives in my own country but in a few others as well.

He said : “”When you [train like a marine], first of all you develop short-term fitness. If you do it gradually then you’ll build-up long-term fitness for nine-10 months. “If you get fit really quickly then you develop shorter-term fitness that only last around 3-4 months.”

Now I must say that I am not an expert in such matters. But by reading his comments I think he is saying that injuries will occur starting from  3-4 months in to the season. And he said that the same things occurs time and time again and called Wenger his training methods as prehistoric.

So what do the numbers say? Is there a period when injuries suddenly become an issue after 3-4 months in to the season? Thanks to the database of injuries since 2002 we can answer this question for you.

In fact the details are in this nice table that we will present to you. And in this table we will be able to see the monthly situation about injuries since 2002.

injury per month

And now when we look back at the words of Mr. Verheijen we should see a significant rice in injuries each season in the months October and November.

For as he said himself that because of the “marines” training the effect is gone after that time and as a result the injuries will rise. The start of pre season is in July so if we take that as month 0 we have August as 1, September as 2, October as 3 and November as 4.

Now if we look at the monthly situation we see that the month we got most injuries since 2002 is the month February. And if we start counting from July this is month 7. And the month we have then the second most injuries is December which is month 5. And then next is January which is month 6.

Now I don’t want to sound arrogant but isn’t that the period of the season that we usually are still in 4 competitions? And as a result we have to play almost 3 times in a week. And if you add to that the fact that Arsenal usually has the least rest in between those matches (look at each Christmas – New year schedule of Arsenal over the last years). So maybe there is more wrong with the way the schedule has been made up than there is something wrong with the training methods.

In the months that Verheijen said we pay the price we should see a rice in October and November.

In fact when you look at this monthly table we see that between the month with the highest injury record (February) and October there is a difference of some 12 injuries in total over 10 seasons. This means a difference of just over 1 injury for each month of the league.  A difference of 1 injury on average between the highest and the lowest month in the period between October and February.

In fact this is all rather even. In fact this is a very minor difference.

The months that we have fewest injuries are April, March and May. I don’t count June and July as we don’t play competitive football in that period. May can also be rather left alone as we then sometimes only play 3 games in that period.

So looking at these numbers and looking at the fact that we have shown that Arsenal suffer more from contact injuries than any other team I wonder if the accusations of Mr. Verheijen are build on quicksand? I think that Mr. Verheijen is forgetting that more than 41% of the injuries sustained by Arsenal players are contact injuries. And that has nothing to do with training methods. But more with good referees.

But what we do see is that 2013 has been terrible injury wise. But as we have said before the endless allowing and unpunished kicking from Arsenal players as can be seen in the contact injuries will have a big part to play in that.

So another attack from the media against Wenger but again when you look at the facts it all is rather build on nothing. Does this mean that the training methods cannot be improved? I don’t know to be honest. I’m not a fitness coach.  But some are fitness coaches are more busy with making propaganda for their own job than anything else. And I also wonder if Mr. Verheijen has any inside information on how Arsenal works in pre-season? Or is he looking for a job?

Next in this series we will go in to some injuries in detail. Injuries that happen a lot and see how much Arsenal suffers compared to the others. Or injuries that don’t happen that much but that might shed some light on terrible refereeing.  Stay tuned for more.

Footnote from Tony: it is interesting that all this commentary on Arsenal injuries – (including the article in the Guardian newspaper ahead of the Tottenham game, which fiercely criticised Wenger and his methods, and blamed them for the injuries Arsenal suffer) has occurred so soon after we started publishing this series.   Coincidence?  Maybe. Maybe not.

37 Replies to “The Untold Injury records – Part 5.2: Bashing Özil Bashing Wenger”

  1. Excellent article Walter.

    This attack reeks of desperation – they get poor old Raymond Verheijen to bulster bullishly a lot of nonsense, hoping that this will cause us all to ignore what our own eyes are relaying back to us:our players are assaulted, the ref feigns blindness, the FA look the other way and the media fall back on their tried, tested but utterly ridiculous Wenger bashing.

    It stinks to high heaven of collusion and corruption.

    In a desperate attempt to disguise the truth poor old Raymond Verheijen is bought in.

  2. This is why I have been objecting to the calls by our well meaning fans for investigations into why we have so many injuries. Apart from the fact that I have little to no doubt that our injuries come from the kicking that we get, the calls have always come across as insinuating that our medical team is incompetent. While those making the call do not have this intention, that is how it comes across to the outsiders and opportunists like the Dutch fellow pounce to make a name for themselves. Who knew this guy before his self promotion that he thinly veiled as a genuine critique? Now, we see his name all over the media and the Internet.

    The media, who really don’t give a damn about Arsenal’s injury problems and who would never let go of any opportunity to malign the club have now found their authoritative expert. Would they do any expose or analysis on the correlation between fouls (from being kicked) and number of injuries?


  3. Thanks Walter. The media here will give anyone an audience as long as he’s speaking against Wenger. Even some crazy lunatic from a repressive regime such as Burma’s could start getting some mileage, and ‘credibility’, in the media here if he started bashing Wenger.

    I just don’t understand people trying to scrape around for reasons when they can see what we see every week when we play in the PL. With the kind of kicking that Jack was getting it was only a matter of time before he was injured, and its no coincidence that the person that injured him plays in the premiership. Its a miracle that giroud hasn’t had much time out with the the kicking he’s been getting too; I can vividly recall incidents in at least 3 matches I feared he was going to be out for a while (v Newcastle, City, Stoke). In a different game Arteta had the two thugs from Chelsea go in hard and could have broken his leg, and only one got a yellow. Carzola was lucky to escape a broken metatarsal against Skrtle. In another game Rosicky had his nose smashed in and the ref didn’t think it was even worthy of a free kick. I could go on, but the point is these are all terrible tackles that were committed this season alone, with the offending parties not even punished.

    I knew it was only a matter of time before Ozil was out injured, as I said a few weeks back that him, Jack and Giroud were being singled out for special treatment from opposing players every match. I could bet my last penny that were Arsenal to go and join a league such as the Spanish, the amount of injuries we incur would reduce massively, if not halved overnight. Here you hear comments such as the type of player Wenger likes isn’t strong to handle the physical demands of the premiership. What demands? Is it a rugby league? The most successful team in Spain and Europe these past 10 years has been using exactly the type of player that isn’t deemed good enough for the premiership. How is that possible. Wrong training methods my foot.

  4. Walter,

    It seems clear that our worst problems are in the months of Nov/Dec/Jan/Feb – midwinter, lots of football.

    What would be really interesting is to (i) compare these injury rates against the other clubs in the survey and (ii) break down by contact/non-contact.

    If the winter peak is consistent for everyone then we know that playing lots of football in cold conditions is not conducive to injury avoidance. Perhaps the programme could/should be slimmed down? But it is the non-contact injuries that would be most revealing as to whether it is just Arsenal that train like marines – or everyone.

  5. Excellent article Walter.

    The fault of injuries are the teams & players responsible for causing them, not the ones who suffer them. Intentionally or not, there are players at certain clubs that cause the contact injuries on more than one occasion. Their character & personality type is irrelevent to the players on the receiving end of such challenges.

    It’s backward thinking to level the blame at players who get kicked on the pitch for being “injury prone” or not robust enough & not the perpetrators who allow this to happen in the first place (i.e. players, managers, match officials).

    Again, the onus should be on the ones dishing out the injuries whether their minor knocks or leg breaks, & not the players who are on the receiving end.

    Keep up the good work.

  6. The determination of who gets most injured, where and when it occurs most often,why these players seem to be ¨injury-prone¨ and how the injury is sustained and what can be done to mitigate injuries is a science in itself. contact versus non-contact injuries is a sub-specialty of the above, and imho, here are some key factors:

    1)The age of the player – the older players seem to avoid such injuries more often than not. Younger players seem to be more prone to contact injuries, due to them still growing. Ramsey,Wilshere,Diaby, and Walcott are all young and incur repeated injuries.

    2)The size of the player – Per doesn’t seem to get injured, Giroud (the most solid of our players) seems to be almost impregnable, Szcesny and Fabianski have avoided injuries pretty much.

    3)The fitness level of the player – players just coming back seem more prone to be re-injured. Guys like Kos, Arteta, Flamini, Cazorla, Sagna, and Gibbs are used a great deal and therefore are at top fitness apparently.

    4)The exercise and muscle-building regimen each player uses – Gibbs said that his pre-season weight training has really helped him avoid any serious long-term injury this season.

    5)The quality of the EPL pitchs – the Emirates has a beautifully maintained pitch BUT that is not the case across the EPL. Playing on a poor pitch invites muscle-tears and other stress injuries.

    6)The rotational fouling encouraged by officials – Wilshere and Ramsey were particularly targeted but also Arteta and Cazorla. It is curious that few dare take on Per,Flamini, Kos, Szcesny or Fabianski. The latter two are over 6’2 and are hard young men, the former 3 are plain hard men.

    7)The previous injury history of the player – players who have been injured and re-injured tend to have weaken resistance to further injuries and will be more likely to play in a different manner than someone who rarely gets injured.

    When I was in my active playing and officiating days I saw a lot of players get injured because they didn’t warm up properly before entering the field. Most professionals seem to be better at pre-match preparation and warming up but there may be some who aren’t doing what they should.
    I sincerely doubt that it is the ¨fault¨ of any one person or group. AFC have the best medical and training services and facilities available, they are professionals and know what to do for our injured. If a finger can be pointed, it must be at the officials who turn their backs on their first duty which is to protect players during a game.

  7. @@ OMGArsenal
    March 19, 2014 at 5:27 pm

    Good post. Good suggestions. I think point number 6 is very true. Most pundits and all Arsenal haters will say that our players can’t take the rough stuff so they deserve to be injured. Until Riley disappears from football the rotational kicking our players will continue non stop.

    Arsenal with Arsene at the helm has produced some of the most skilful players English football has ever seen. They get kicked and kicked and kicked. Then they are are accused of being injury prone!

    Above there was a comment about the state of the spuds pitch I noticed this. I was amazed to see ‘mud patches’. Nothing was said by the commentators about it. You can imagine the flow of vitriol that would have flowed from them had it been the Ems pitch.

  8. My view is that we have a small number of players.We always have play the same players.The alternative team is not fully matured or trusted to do the job.The likes of Myachi and Dyabi that are in the squad but they contribute nothing this season.Same goes for Bendtner and to some extent Gnabry.
    If you look at the number of availability of those players is mot bad .However for what ever reason are not playing to absorb the fatigue.Take out the Ox and Theo in early season due to injury and we are condemned to play the same players time and time again.As a result Ozil and Ramsey they have to play with no rest what so ever.

    So for me not add a couple of body in January was essential.

  9. More great work from Untold.

    I think Verheijen is currently out of work. Can’t be sure.
    Arsenal players employ a number of physios, from the club and privately. The private ones tend to be so good that they do not need ex-players to use an excuse demanding their full employment to obfuscate their reasons for leaving the club. Especially when these very physios are still working or have been working with players at the club since *taps the nose that knows* 😉

    And the Arsenal physios seem to have done quite well with rehabilitating some dude called Rosicky. And then managing his fitness and even improving his conditioning slowly over time (with hard work from the player himself!). Many of us thought the days of him belting in a goal from distance went with his tendons. Now two in two weeks! (One for Czech.).

    But of course the self declared internet Redzone Experts won’t give that credit that is due to Arsenal.

    Won’t even mention the obvious changes made to the astute stewardship of the new batch. Chambo, Gnabbers etc. Lucky kids, though to be fair they were smart enough to sign for the arsenal in the first place.

    Which physio writes as if players listen to their physios all the time?
    At Arsenal I can name Fabregas Wilshere Vermaelan and Ozil as players who have injured themselves further by ignoring advice or by playing on when they should be walking off. But they are athletes and that is what athletes tend to do. And I am sure there are other examples.

  10. To stop injuries we should learn how to fall better and go down under. Minimal contact but make it look realistic!

  11. An excellent series of articles and I appreciate the immense preparation involved.

    At this stage I still consider the constant kicking we receive and its accumulative effects are the major factor in our injury levels, including supposed non-contact injuries.

    Off topic – I noticed van Pursie picked up what looks like a hamstring injury tonight – this could be bad news for us – the Manures play the Oilers soon & it would be helpful if the Oilers dropped points in that match.

  12. Great article. Thanks for the information about Verheijen (if I’ve spelt it right).

    Thanks to contributors for the many interesting additional points.

    Just read the article on the Arsenal web site with stats about Wenger’s period at Arsenal. Some amazing and surprising figures that show the size of the man’s achievement!

  13. Walter,

    So funnt how in the article in the link above, EPL has 7 fouls per game less than any other big league. But we know that is not the real number of fouls in a game, but merely the ones that do get a call.

  14. Pat,

    This is the most interesting bit for me:

    “The Gunners have won 30 of the 45 games so far in 2013/14 – for a 66.7 per cent win rate – better than each of the previous 109 seasons since Arsenal became a league side in 1893.”

    So it is not just my perception; we have been very good this year.

    Here is another:

    “In fact, even if he lost each of his next 100 games in charge, he would still have the highest win ratio of any Arsenal manager in history.”

    Hear that, WOB and AAA?

    There are so many gems in that piece that I must post a link to it here:

    I know that no man is indispensable but I shudder at the thought of Arsene leaving the club.

  15. Well Wenger seems bothered by the injuries as he has launched an investigation into why they keep occurring.Too many players have suffered serious injuries in training.Nasri broken leg,Diaby ACL,Vermaelen/Jenkinson/Denilson broken back,the gym incident when Szez broke both his arms and too many strained groins,calves and hamstrings to mention.In addition there is a history at the club of injured players breaking down again when they return to training eg Ramsey and Walcott to name but two.Now you can sit around whinging and blaming others or you can see if there is anything you should or shouldn’t be doing to stop the injuries that have ruined every season since 2006.Personally I am glad Wenger is being proactive on this issue.

  16. One of the reasons I like beginners to use machines instead of free weights, is that it is more difficult to get hurt. It is still possible. A problem with machines, is that they are not as functional as other exercises.

    For large swaths of athletic endeavors, the Olympic lifts (and related lifts) are very useful. But Olympic lifts, I mean the snatch, and the clean and jerk. Related lifts are the deadlift (not straight legged), power cleans, shrugs.

    You go find any Olympic class lifter (the Olympic lifts, naturally), and measure their vertical jumping ability, and it is common for them to get 3 feet (or more) of vertical.

    I was considering going into the Master’s games 10 or so years ago. I would be in the open weight class. I think the world records was 340 pounds (and I will say that is clean and jerk, but it might have been snatch). A 45 year old man lifting 340 off the floor over his head in any event, in a very short period of time. It isn’t hard to see how they get so good at jumping.

    On a 10 yard sprint, they would probably beat Bolt.

    But, it is not easy to learn this kind of lifting. I have done power cleans at 135, but most of the time I am at 65 or so.

    But, whether one talks squats or any of these Olympic type lifts, there are more than 250 muscles of the body particulating in the lift. They are very complex.

  17. Walter
    Your dismissive description of Verheijen’s resume might suggest that he went to three world cups and European championships as a spectator and not a man in charge of player fitness for countries like South Korea, Russia and especially Nederlands who have single handedly revolutionized football and over the years produced some of the best talent in the world.

    Those ‘few clubs’ you mentioned so nonchalantly Verheijen worked for in the past include Barca, Chelsea Man City and others , which pretty much makes him one of the most qualified people around on the subject.

    You calling him ‘arrogant’ and loosely suggesting he said what he said for a ‘ handful of money’ smacks of character assassination if I’ve ever seen one.

    Now , frankly I don’t give a rat’s ass about Verheijen’s motives but I’m not blind to the fact that outside of Arsenal players getting kicked off the pitch more than most ,there have been way too many relapses and training ground injuries and players have routinely come back to full fitness in twice the time or longer than originally predicted for their recovery. Now , you can all look the other way or even insanely advocate for not having an inquiry but Wenger is a pragmatist and he knows that tens of millions of dollars are being wasted each season and fans are deprived of top players showcasing their talents while Arsenal trophy winning chances are being handicapped .

    What bussines or corporation wouldn’t look into getting the most out of their most prized assets if there was even the slightest chance of improving company’s performance. NONE!

  18. Following a comment that Dean was half decent in the Spuds match, I decided to watch a replay of it (I’m in India at the moment back in UK when the warm weather returns).

    The number of kicks Arsenal players get after releasing the ball is consistent and as usual ignored by PGMOL’s cheat specialist Dean. It would be useful to maintain stats of how many kicks each player gets in a match, particularly to the back of the leg. The ‘stamps’ that cause the boot to come off are also GBH type tackles.

    Officials and the crud that employ them ignore most of this collateral fouling.

  19. Tom,
    There is a big difference between taking care of the fitness of a national team or a club team. A national team works for a 4 week period of all or nothing. A club team for a season long run. So he might be good at preparing a team for a short splash of fitness as his record shows but is he any good in the long run?

    This question could be answered by the fact that he was at Barcelona, Chelsea and Man City. Now if he would be the icing on the fitness cake….then why didn’t those teams keep him? If he really was that great shouldn’t those teams along with PSG and Monaco fight for him?

    And going back to the national teams fitness. In fact this is a rather easy job to do. In fact a kind of empty box job. Because all the players are being kept fit by their clubs. Or do you really think that it is Verheijen who made sure all those unfit players who came from their club have been turned in to enormous fit players by Verheijen for a world cup or European championship.

    Of course I don’t mind that Arsenal investigates the injury and the reasons why they happen. But the critical tone from the article that appeared in the newspaper was rather strange. If Verheijen would have worked at Arsenal for a year or more and would then be critical about things I can accept it. But now an outsider who even doesn’t really know how it works hitting out at Wenger for his training methods…seems a bit too easy.

  20. Walter,

    I read the article with the website you posted. Honestly, those stats doesnt imply much of EPL being more technical now. A foul is a foul as ling as the referee blows it no matter how the tackle was and its consequence. A small harmless unintentional play is still a foul like a two studs avenging killer tackle. Passes made doesnt show short or ling passes. The time ball in play should not be considered because in rugby, ball doesnt go out that often too. Perhaps, the value spent by clubs over the years for players should taken account. Technical players do cost way much more than physical players. However, how the player plays also depend on the manager. I have seen technical players sometimes turned to monsters when defending because of tactically and under manager’s instruction. Eg: Charlie Adams, David Luiz, Daniel Agger, Paul Scholes, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerard, Van Persie and etc. If you notice, Mourinho and Ferguson players will go great lengths to impress their managers just to be actively in the squad. What about the tackled players? Maybe the mindset of managers play a role too. Often the objectives in EPL and rip its financial reward will make these type of managers very desperate. Win at all costs. One thing, Walter, you were definitely right about the standard of coaching in England and the number of qualified managers around compared to other countries. As they always say ‘ These foreign players dont like it rough.’ Of course when the British managers keep roughing them up unfairly.

  21. Linz,

    Directly or indirectly, you are actually insinuating that Arsene Wenger is not proactive. If injuries have been ruining our seasons since 2006 as you said, why is the “proactive” Wenger just investigating it 8 years later? I know what “proactive” means and it is not that.

    Walter’s previous article on this matter shows that our non-contact injuries are about the same as Manchester United’s. There is no there there. We have lots of injuries because of the way our opponents “rough us up” or “get in our faces” as you might have heard the media suggest from time to time.

    I insist that Wenger only threw the media a bone by talking about investigating the cause of our injury problems. Please show the guy some respect. He added how many years to the football life of Tony Adams and a few others by revolutionising their diets and training practices? You are really telling me that this man would take 8 years before deciding to figure out why his players are getting injured?

    I guess we can all choose to believe whatever we want.

  22. Oh yeah, I think the current physio for England team right now is poaches from Arsenal FC. No kidding. If we were so bad, why the nation itself needed us?

  23. And I agree with Walter on that Dutch physio. He actually made his name under Gus Hiddick. It was Hiddick who instructed him to shape up the Korean players into pieces that can fulfill his tactical demand for the World Cup. In fact before that World Cup, the Korean players went media berseck about Hiddick’s toughness and their difficulties to be super fit as Hiddick wanted. Hiddick was responsible for their success not that Dutch idiot. He from there on followed Hiddick along and learned from Hiddick. If people want to know how good is Arsene Wenger in fitness and physical preparation, just ask Robert Pires, Alex Hleb and the wannabe managers who come to Arsenal FC to get their coaching badges. And that includes Pep Guardiola.

  24. “we are condemned to play the same players time and time again.As a result Ozil and Ramsey they have to play with no rest what so ever… So for me not add a couple of body in January was essential.”
    Exactly right. We’ve needed Proactive planning by (a) not Spurning the last 3 January windows (except to replace an injured man, as the Nacho purchase); and (b) spending to achieve a quality bench when we could afford to do so. Both these should change going forward as we have the money and we may be learning to expect the worst (refshite/orcshite) rather than hoping for the best and suffering unfair injuries by the reality of complicit/negligent perpetrators in Rileyworld and its string-pullers.

  25. Walter
    Physios and fitness coaches loose their jobs at club and country level for the same reasons assistant coaches loose theirs – a regime change. Most top level managers when hired will bring with them people they had worked before .

    Verheijen has criticized many other managers and their fitness methods so saying that he has it in for Wenger, especially when he had high praises for Arsen for other things , is doubtful .

    Those other managers Verheijen criticized in the past include Benitez , Mancini and Moyes.

    You yourself have criticized the PL officials for their outdated interpretations of the rules and rightfully so but I haven’t heard anyone accuse you of doing so for publicity or handful of money.

    The fact is there are many things in the PL that are outdated or ignored by powers that be , some because of vast amounts of money it generates but others simply by an old fashion mentality of the English game.

    I cringe every time I see a player go down holding his hamstring or Achilles only to continue on after a brief visit by a physio while a commentator says ‘ he should be able to soldier on , he’s a tough lad’ or ‘ he’s gonna try to run it off’ . You don’t ‘run off ‘ those types of injuries , you just make them worse.

    How many times have we heard a Manager say about an injured player ‘he is a game time decision’ or ‘he is gonna have a fitness test before the game’. Who do you think makes those recommendations and don’t you think those people are under pressure to deliver?

    What ends up happening is this . An injured player who really wants to play anyway, knows he is needed and expected to tough it out for the good of the team so he makes it sound better than how he really feels about being ready , the physio concurs and the manager believes he’s got a fit player he can start when in fact neither of them really believes it and they know it.

    Why would a player like Ozil or Aguero try to continue playing with a hamstring problem if not for knowing it was expected of them to give it a go.

  26. this is odd…

    no rant nor moan no more?
    i’m pretty sure last term i would plunge my fist into someone’s throat over this kind of topic here…


  27. Sukebe

    That’s because it’s been such a brilliantly well researched and in depth analysis.

    Obviously some points are open to interpretation, even question, but what meaningful research isn’t.

    Tom and Mandy for example have asked questions and debated salient points and made some great observations.

    But by and large it is pretty convincing stuff.

    One thing you get used to on here Sukebe is that the ‘ranters’ tend to shy away from intelligent debate like this.

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