The causes of injuries: how the press drew false conclusions

By Tony Attwood

Koscielny, Ozil, Ramsey, Arteta, Wilshere, Theo, Bellerin, Gnabry… you know the story.  And it is fairly obvious that this is a contributory factor to the club’s current position.  Especially when we think that Giroud, Debuchy, Gibbs, Flamini and Monreal, have all had injuries this season as well as those currently out.  Goodness, we were down to our third choice keeper for some Euro games this season.

Year after year we get injuries – lots of them.   And even though our list of injuries is so high, the assumption is made that the problem with the injuries is the manager.

Now that takes quite a leap, because there isn’t any hard evidence to this effect.  A fair amount of speculation, but not much evidence.  And it is the evidence that I want to look at here.

I’m back to injuries today because Ivan Gazidis, who has talked about injuries before, has continued to do so in this quarter’s report to shareholders.

Now what we need here is detailed analysis, and perhaps some experts who can help us analyse it.  But there are two problems for such experts.  First, clubs don’t reveal all the details of injuries for fear of giving their opponents advantages, for fear of not being able to sell a player on when they want him to go, and indeed for fear of putting up the insurance costs.

And second, one possible cause of the injuries is a cause that the media absolutely will not mention under any circumstances.

But in the end all we have to go on is such data as we can pick up – which is mostly the club’s declaration about injuries, and even though the press won’t do a proper analysis, we can.

The latest report turns up in the Telegraph today, and shows that between 2003-4 and 2013-14, Arsenal had 312 significant injuries (significant meaning that a player was out for ten days or more).   Chelsea got 212 in the same period.  For the last seven seasons in their stats Arsenal have had injuries above the average – which is similar to the figure that Untold produced when we did a season of weekly injury analyses.

The Telegraph have an “exclusive” from  Premier Injuries Ltd for their figures, although given that the results quoted are not very extensive, they could have used Untold’s approach, which would have given them a deeper analysis.

But before looking at our analysis published earlier this year, let’s see what the Telegraph have to say…

This year Arsenal have 25 injuries of the serious kind so far, according to the Telegraph table, compared with 13 for Liverpool, for example.

Since 2004-5, Arsenal players have lost 13,161 days to injury.   In the same period, Chelsea have lost  7,217 days to injury, Liverpool 9,287, Man C 10,053, Everton 10,530.

And so it goes on season after season, with the numbers (at least for Arsenal) going up and up.  We have lost 874 player days this season.  Chelsea have lost 250 days.  Between 2007/8 and 2011/12 we either had the highest or second highest number of injuries in four of those five years.

We’ve looked at the “why?” of this before, and talked about Arsenal’s investigation into training methods, the training pitches, and the pitch at Stadium Wenger.

Following the lead taken by Untold through Walter’s series on injuries (which started here – there is an index of all the articles at the end of this piece) the research in the Telegraph breaks down injuries into type – although their analysis (at least as far as reported) does not have the rigour of the Untold review.

The Telegraph says Arsenal, have had the most muscular injuries in the Premier League so far this season at 14 with only Man U having more since 2007/8.

But then, suddenly all this lovely scientific study goes out the window, and the Telegraph reporter, Jeremy Wilson, walks trance like into another dimension.  He says,

“Questions, then, can legitimately be asked about Arsenal’s methods.”   Well yes, and many other questions can be asked as well. Suddenly he quotes Raymond Verheijen as saying that there was a “career-threatening process” at Arsenal that was structural.  And he says, “few professionals in the industry are willing to speak openly about their theories.”

We looked at Mr V earlier this year too – in fact we did a bit of a special on him.  It’s in the index below.

But then the Telegraph, instead of jumping back from the rather outrageous and unsupported accusations of one man, goes utterly off the rails by saying “One former Arsenal player, however, told The Telegraph that Wenger’s training methods – which place an emphasis on relatively short but intense sessions – is a part of the issue.”

So one player.  We don’t know who.  We don’t know if he has a grudge to bear because he was dropped or is suing the club for maltreatment, or is just a bit liable to take on strange theories, or is angry that he didn’t get a long enough contract.

“Players need more rest now and more individually tailored programmes but Arsene has his methods that he believes in,” said our mystery player.  As a sample size, one is a bit, well, sort of, low.

At least the writer does admit that “There are many conflicting theories. Research by one Premier League club – who have an excellent injury record – has concluded that the “over-playing” theory is largely a myth and that, with the right recovery, physical limits are more often reduced by mentality.”

Now let’s try and unravel this properly.

I think it was somewhere around Lecture One of Day One at university that I was told (and then told again on Day Two, and reminded regularly, and taken through it all again when I started my research degree wherein it was insisted that I did another full term’s work on statistics, data and analysis) that evidence, explanation, theory and testing are all part of science and social science – you really do need them all.

In situations like this you can’t test, because we can’t say to one club, do x and another do y, but we can still have evidence, explanation, and theory.  And samples bigger than one.

So you gather data, with as much objectivity as possible, and then seek explanations and turn them into a theory, while recognising  that chance is always a part of life.

One explanation is that Wenger is at fault – his training methods are wrong.  It is a theory, but quite why a man who has won the league three times, and the FA Cup five times should keep on using faulty training methods is not clear, and in that regard the explanation seems unlikely.  The theory is still there, but it has weaknesses.

Other explanations that it is Arsenal’s fault (the pitch, overplaying the players etc) falter in the same regard – why would the club not change the system?  Indeed why would top professionals still come to Arsenal if it were clear that something was wrong with the pitches, or the methodology?  Again the theory is still there, but it is a bit feeble.

So we have to look for other explanations – not because the ones that say that it is Arsenal’s fault are proven to be impossible, but because there are good reasons to say they are unlikely.   Just saying that Wenger is a pig-headed idiot isn’t really scientific, and needs some support before it can be accepted.

And it is at this point that the Telegraph and Premier Injuries Ltd (at least in so far as their work is reported by the Telegraph) falter.  Because they do not consider all the possible causes and then look for supporting evidence and then produce a theory.  Yes, it could be Wenger, yes it could be Arsenal, yes to some degree it could be and probably is chance, but there are other explanations that have supporting evidence.

And the key point is “supporting evidence”.  You could say, “an alien space craft is beaming an injury ray onto Arsenal’s training complex” and you might be right, but there is no supporting evidence.  You could follow Raymond Verheijen, but again there is no real supporting evidence.

But when we come to look at the notion that the way some referees treat Arsenal players as opposed to the way they treat others, there is some supporting evidence.   All you have to do is read the reviews here, and the reviews on Referee Decisions, written by non-Arsenal supporting referees.  You can dismiss all those, but then you have to say why you are rejecting that evidence in favour of whatever view you have.

Now I am not saying that this proves that it is the action of some referees that is to blame for Arsenal regularly being top of the injury league.  I am saying that this is a credible theory with evidence and that the other theories we have are not as credible.

And much more importantly it is not the theory of one unnamed person – which is what the Telegraph is relying on here, or one man like Mr V who has gone out on a limb.

I don’t know if the Telegraph sports writers know about the thing called “the scientific method” – it is the basis of all our knowledge about the world, and it spreads from physics to psychology.  It is the approach which is used all the time to find explanations for everything from why your leg will break in a certain situation to why the moon goes round the earth and doesn’t fly off into space.  From how electricity works and why an electric shock can kill you, to how your over-arching personality affects some of the decisions you make.

Quite why the Telegraph and their chums at Premier Injuries Ltd don’t adopt the scientific approach I don’t know, but if they did they would have to consider the impact not just of training methods, training pitches, the Arsenal pitch, and the speed at which players return from injury, and the alleged obstinacy of Mr Wenger but also the action of referees and the level of injuries that come from issues during a game rather than issues in training.

Not to do so is to leave a whacking great hole in the whole research programme, and basically to nullify all of it.  Yes it is valid to ignore the aliens and the ray gun, because there is no supporting evidence, but there is evidence relating to the refs. Here are the links to our research on injuries:

You might also like the way that the Guardian picked up on this story from Untold before the Telegraph got there.

Hey ho.

The Untold Index


71 Replies to “The causes of injuries: how the press drew false conclusions”

  1. Here’s a clue…Watching the Stoke v Chelsea game….three minutes to go nothing left in the game for Stoke. Walters chasing Hazard into
    the corner deliberately scrapes Hazard down the achilles and then attempts to make it look like an accident. The commentator states nothing malicious or intentional “he’s just tired” The ref was correct in booking Walters. Its this type of thuggery that passes as “professionalism” and glossed over by the media that contributes to high levels of injuries

  2. Now this IS the debate we should be having. However, much time and effort has been expended by bloggers and commenters down the years speculating as to the possible causes of Arsenal’s injury problems.

    But, to recap, theories include:

    – Lack of protection from referees
    – Style of football invites late tackles
    – Arsenal sign small, vulnerable players
    – The artificial pitch fibres (ref lack of divots) reduce yield
    – Overtraining
    – Poor medical care (which includes: poor preparation/conditioning, poor recovery, playing players who are not fully recovered, poor surgery, poor rehab, poor monitoring, poor decision-making in terms of not making substitutions when required etc).
    – Poor footwear
    – Too thin a squad
    – Bad luck (or, scientifically, an outcome that is near the limit of statistical possibilities)
    – &c

    Tony is correct when he says that we have very little evidence. What we do have is:

    – New pitch started being used in 2006. I believe the training ground pitch has the same formulation (but could be wrong).
    – Physio (Gary Lewin – who I see shares my birthday!) left in 2008.
    – The Club Doctor also left in 2008.
    – Refereeing took a significant turn for the worse after 2009 (borne out by penalty and other stats).

    Beyond that, we have the statistics and Walter’s analysis of injuries which show a skew in favour of contact injuries sustained during matches. We also know that some soft tissue injuries can be a result of previous contact injuries.

    We also know that referees have, shall we say, a lenient attitude towards opposing players tackling Arsenal players.

    However, we also know that Arsenal have far more evidence than we do. And we also believe that they have been analysing this carefully.

    And we also know that matters have not improved this season! To some extent, an upward blip can be expected after a World Cup where many of our players played to a late stage.

    I suspect that there is some combination of factors at play here but my position has shifted somewhat over the last year or two as the officiating evidence has become more clear-cut.

    So, to conclude, I am with Mandy Dodd on this one. The club should be making strong representations to the authorities about the health and safety impact of their officiating on players (leaving aside all the other reasons they may want to do this).

    As Walter and others say, the first duty of the referee is to ensure the safety of the players…

  3. The injury analysis in the Telegraph would be more interesting if it was broken down into 2004-9 and 2009-14 (and also prior to 2004). I don’t recall it being this bad more than 5 or 6 years ago.

    There is definitely, in my view, some causal relationship with some or all of the changes in 2006-9 of the pitch, the medical staff and the Head of PGMO.

    And for those that would blame Wenger, why should his training methods, which presumably evolve slowly, suddenly lead to a step-change in injury incidence over a short period?

  4. Tony
    the “Arsenal sign small, vulnerable players” has been mentoned a lot by said media. but in that case how does the likes of barcelona and the spanish national team manage to win trophies and keep their players fit??

    You also suggest “We also know that referees have, shall we say, a lenient attitude towards opposing players tackling Arsenal players.”
    to this I say the correct term is ‘biased’ not just do you reconsile the fact that some clubs have over the seasons been accused of being anti football, or playing rugby football eg stoke city under Tony Pulis, Blackburn Rvers under Mark Hughes, etc, etc, and boasts by those clubs managers when confronted by the media that they actually have a better disciplinary record than arsenal?
    My observation concerning the disiplinary record irony is that arsenal go into games particularly against smaller being presented by the baying media as ‘softies’. Very early in arsenal games, arsenal players try to play without fear, but quickily find themselves facing not only their opponents but the referee too. Any attempt at physical tackling is punished with yellow cards. The other team thus is galvanised into provockingly bruising tackles to which the ref waves play on. Knowing the public scruitiny, the ref then equalises the yellow cards well towards the games end by giving one or two yellow cards to opponents – but convinienntly at a juncture that has allowed the team almost the entire game without displinary fears. That way on discipline alone, no one would then find obvious biase in the refereeing! No wonder TP was able to crow, when what people saw was rugby football, or hoofball.

  5. A great write up, and of course that when people don’t have any facts (Telegraph) they are making things up.

    For me, the facts are we are getting injured a lot more than we should be.

    For sure the violent treatment our players are subjected to is a factor; for sure it’s not the only factor.

    This is an interesting read –

    I think that the fact we play CL, FA cup, usually leagaue cup, and of course EPL + the fact that up until recently we didn’t have enough money to buy players just for depth sake – is a huge contributory element. We are talking about [38] (epl) + [~10] (CL – 2 qualifying matches, 6 in the group stage, and 2 at the next stage) + [~3] (FA cup) + [~3] (League cup) = 54 matches.

    Those 54 matches are played in the course of 9 months, give or take. Add to that international matches, whether friendlies or qualifications, and in even years either a Euro or a World Cup.

    Now, if you look at less successful clubs – they don’t play CL matches, they have much less international players, so they play less. On the other hand, clubs which are as successful as us, have a lot more money and a much deeper squad as a result.

    So basically we are fucked because we are a successful, not so wealthy, club.

    The solution? To decrease the amount of matches played. Will it happen? Never, because the FA, FIFA, UEFA, and the rest of the world WANT TO MAKE $$$MONEY$$$.

    So like I said, we are fucked.

  6. Tommie – Or we could become less successful 😉 . Still, if some people have their way and force out the manager, that is highly likely.

  7. Or maybe just because injuries happen, plain and simple. The greater concern obviously is how the players recover and rebuild strength, with the hopes that repeats of the same injury do not occur.

  8. @ Pete – Exactly ! And then the anti Wenger squad will feel vindicated: Wenger will be gone, we won’t play CL, we will have less international players, and get less injuries. So it was ALL WENGER’s FAULT.

    QED for dipshits.

    @ Ernest – WOW ! That’s an amazing idea ! Maybe we can, during the recovery process, implant adamantium skeleton to our players, a bit like Wolverine. Wait a minute I got a better one – give them the serum Steve Rogers got and turn them into Captain Americas !

  9. The other thing about statistics is that a few individual cases can skew the overall picture. For instance – how would the Arsenal data look if you took out that which relates to Diaby?
    How can you compare two clubs who have very different numbers of international players or very different levels of commitment in European competition? How can you compare the long term, both physical and mental, impact of a calf strain with a broken leg? You certainly can’t satisfy Tony’s sensible demand for painstaking analysis unless you take into account such differences.
    Interestingly the game versus Liverpool saw us pitched against a team that had played a tricky away game in midweek while we had not played and had actually enjoyed three days away from training. Who looked the freshest?
    Alex Ferguson got the best out of Paul Scholes, especially in his latter years, by giving him a chunk of time off in the middle of the season. Let’s see how our returnees come back in the New Year.

  10. It seems to be generally suggested that muscular injuries are somehow not the result of foul play, but relate to training or conditioning.
    Aaron Ramsey’s thigh strain last season was clearly the result of a bad tackle from behind at West Ham on Boxing Day – unfortunately I don’t have the computer skills to make a clip of it to post.
    Arsenal players (the likes of Rosicky) are frequently cynically taken out from behind when in full flight especially when breaking from deep.
    My suspicion is that a number of our muscular injuries come from such tackles.

  11. Tony, a good response to the rather strange article in the Telegraph. I don’t think the Telegraph depends on sport sensationalism to sell the paper, so I wonder what the motivation was for this article? Was the motivation initiated from within the shadowy anti Arsenal cartel?

    As we discussed in previous debates on this subject, while injuries can arise from a number of sources, the underlying trends are the number of matches and the repetitive (often deliberate) kicking our players suffer – the latter with the connivance of excuses the PGMO fields as referees. (The media and the Telegraph strangely ignore and protect the continuance of the anti-Arsenal thuggery – why?)

    Naturally – if half the squad is injured rotation is not an option – leaving the survivors more susceptible to fatigue and injury. Catch 22!

  12. Oh no ChrisC,

    Its not a foul. Its called ‘leaving one on him’ or ‘letting you know of his presence’. Nothing malicious you see. Just gamesmanship. Nothing reckless or no intention of injuring. Just a tough way. After all hez ‘not that kind of’a player.

    Idiots, I want to see a player tackle a referee from behind. And then lets see if there was any intention.

  13. shoot,
    I suggest you read the article and then read all the links that are mentioned at the bottom. I think you will get an idea about a big part of the theory

  14. has the latest player status up on the main page. Rosicky, Sanogo and Ospina should be available from the weekend, Bellerin seems to be not quite there. Koscielny, Ramsey, Arteta and Ozil are close, with Koscielny the closest. Koscielny has a slim chance of being ready for Friday, more likely for Sunday. Ramsey possibly for Southampton (I haven’t memorized the schedule, and can’t convert in my head on this). Walcott not there yet. He has been out 1 year.

    Tony made the Media Watch with the 5-0 win at Spurs in 1978.

  15. Money matters !!!

    Chelsea under Mourinho specially they prepare the season in all fronts and they buy proper fit players who can weather to the end of the season.Their bench is always full of fit and able and trusted by the manager to do the job.
    Most of the time managers field the same eleven players.So nothing new there.The big difference Wenger never had the first eleven good players let alone from reserve.So he has to play them week in and week out.I do believe as well that Arsene does not trust the benched players for one reason or another.

    When one Arsenal player is injured everyone of us awaits anxiously to hear about his come back and nothing satisfactory comes out.

    Do i know for any certainty to blame the Physio …..No
    Do i know for any certainty to blame the manager…..No
    Do i have to take as lasting facts that REFEREE have some agenda on us …..No.Why ? because the club manager or the high hierarchy definitely would have taken action but is all a lovely noonsense that it will never be proof right.

  16. In the news (searching for EPL referee), was a youth volleyball training camp. A little blurb about Day 3:

    > Day Three looked at social media training, and the responsibilities of young sportspeople when dealing with social media. This included a fascinating talk by Premier League Referee Jon Moss. Team Volleyball also looked at their own support networks and who can be utilised in order to keep progressing within our sport.

    Did Moss talk about officiating (they had volleyball officials at the camp), or about social media? Has anyone noticed Moss in social media? If so, doing what?

  17. Gord – As others will tell you, Jon Moss is a regular target of the Football is Fixed blog. Having said that, he doesn’t stand out as a particularly anti-Arsenal ref.

  18. Thanks Pete.

    What do you mean target? Is he responding to the Football is Fixed mentions of himself, or PGMO?

  19. The Telegraph article was most interesting; particularly as it is the first in depth look at this problem, which is encouraging.

    There is little doubt that the research must go far deeper than this, then maybe we would see some fireworks.

    Still, hopefully this is the first step in the right direction, so let’s not be over-critical just yet!!!!

  20. The numbers are irrefutable.

    But if you want to ignore the numbers let’s just remember Dean’s call on the Wilshere hack. No way under the sun since the FA was first formed C.1850 can an official miss the foul there. Unless, as we saw with Oliver on the weekend and a have seen with so many others the peculiar application of the advantage rules in AFC games under Riley’s guidance (the run from Chambo where he was fouled and then Liverpool attacked – apparently Oliver thought there was an advantage there – for Liverpool!)). Either Dean is unfit for the job and unaware of what a foul has been since the dawn of Football and the FA, or he was attempting to disguise his recorded bias with the deliberate misapplication of the advantage rule, which is just plain old cheating. In her face! 🙂 Undeniable.

    The thing with this constant and deliberate misuse of the advantage rule is that all match going fans I speak to have noticed this trend. You can’t miss it! As above, it is simply undeniable. In the open. It is, what it is. But I’m sure the AAAA Experts only further undermine their poor posture by attempting to ignore what everyone can see. But then again, should we expect anything different from people who ally themselves with Piers Morgan? He’s done wonders for KPs cause…

  21. There’s not one more important reason for Arsenal’s inconsistent performances than our injuries. There’s also no other subject that’s more complex and layered either.

    Too many aspects are open for speculation because facts are not available for most of us to look at. In the absence of hard cold facts people tend to put forth explanations that suit their convictions or agendas.

    My personal view is that it’s a combination of things and the main culprits are ,in no particular order;

    1. Lack of protection from referees, when virtually everyone and their uncle has admitted they play rougher against Arsenal than any other club in PL because Arsenal don’t like it ‘up em ‘

    2.Not enough squad rotation. Playing certain players more minutes than humanly possible and thus taking chances with their fitness.
    E.g Ramsey last season . 31 games in all competitions by Dec 26th( injury), when other players in similar positions logged only 21 to 24 games in the same time period.

    We currently have a player who’s played more minutes than any other outfield player in the league. No wonder he looks tired and uncertain of himself.

    3. Signing more technical and undersized players in the most physical league in the world, where referees let a lot go.

    4. Signing players with checkered fitness history like Sanogo, Rosicky, or even worse, signing players who are injured ( Kallstrom).

    Arsene Wenger contemplating extending Diaby’s contract is a window into Arsene’s mind set when it comes to not minding having players around who will never be fit enough to be counted on.
    And please don’t tell me ‘ we owe it to Diaby, because he got injured on the job so he needs to be taken care of’

    Planty of people get injured on the job and lose their jobs while being taken care of financially. There are other ways of making good without having a player take up a roster spot.

    Wether there is some systemic flaw in Arsenal’s training methods hasn’t been proven , but to say it’s not probable because Arsene Wenger would have corrected it by now,… well , I’m not so sure. First, he would have to know about it , and then Arsene Wenger isn’t exactly known for changing things or his mind a lot.

    Eighteen years in charge of Arsenal and only two different assistants, and only because Pat Rice retired for health reasons.

    SAF had six in the same time span.

    The main reasons for thinking there might be something wrong with the system is the amount of injuries to Arsenal players who rarely or never see first team action.

    The other one is the hamstring and groin injuries.

    Contrary to Walter’s analysis where he concluded they can also be a result of contact, the overwhelming professional opinion is they are not.

    A tired adductor muscle or hamstring will give out during a simple football routine like sprinting or blocking a shot or side footing a ball.

    Also, the wisdom of ‘ run it off’ approach has to be questioned with any knee injury( Ozil twice). I’d say it’s a systemic problem when your record signing makes his original knock worse by continuing to play while not fit.

  22. “I’d say it’s a systemic problem when your record signing makes his original knock worse by continuing to play while not fit.”

    Athletes playing on with injury?


    “I’ve played with pain for years”

    Yet more disingenuous twaddle from the Expert amateur, a result of it’s failed efforts to attack and undermine the Numbers, which they constantly ignore, hence the meaningless and inaccurate gibberish written above Can’t imagine why it has to consistently ignore the numbers 🙂

  23. It sure was interesting for me , an ignorant amateur to to have talked with one of RVPs and TV5s physios. 😉
    but yeah, grateful for the proven disingenuity above, eh?

    Fortunately for that physio I mention he’s in or has been in the employ of some of the top UK based footballers.* Whilst the likes of the unemployed Raymond Verheijen share their expertise upon twitter (For all I know all these physios are probably friends!).

    *When Moyes changed the training prescription he helped to compose for RVP, the player suffered

  24. Finsbury

    There are knocks and pains you can play with and there are ones you should not continue to play with under any circumstances ( knee).

    As for my fitness cred, I played professional football for 18 years ( that’s getting payed for playing and making a good living at it), suffered multiple groin and hamstring injuries – never from contact.

    And I hold a degree in fitness as well as a coaching license from the Academy of Physical Education ( AWF) in Cracow Poland.

    I wonder what your credentials are , other than being awesome at gibberish 🙂

  25. You’ve left reams of your credentials upon these pages. For all to see 🙂
    Good for you.

    Shame about the numbers. Never mind.

  26. The report mentions a number of times, injury days per team. There is no sense comparing injury days per team, when some injuries result in 1 or 2 days injured, and other injuries result in 300 or more. This is especially true when the intention is to argue that training methods are the cause of injuries. Sorry, soft tissue injuries do not only come from training.

    For me, an obvious example is the hamstring injury during a game; a person is either in a full sprint, or close to it, and you seem them collapse, often grabbing at the hamstring. It’s a soft tissue injury. It occurred in a game, it is not a training issue problem.

    Are most hamstring strains due to stretching or sprinting? Looking at sports medical information on the web, they nearly all say that most strains are due to stretching or sprinting. Some mention contusions, and don’t say much about the contusion (what it is, how common they are, …). Contusions are due to impact. And I am not talking “high impact aerobics”, I am talking someone kicks you, punches you, knees you, elbows you, that sort of thing. The result of receiving the impact, is the crushing of tissue. If you are kicked mid thigh, it is mostly muscle tissue there (or is it semi-tendonosis/semi-membranosis?), and hence we have crushed muscle. If the impact is close to a joint, the crushing could be mostly tendon, it could be muscular it could be both. If you then have to sprint hard or stretch hard, what happens? Do you think crushed tissue is as strong as tissue that isn’t crushed? How i interpret a strain, that involves tissue that had been subject to an impact, is that it is an impact injury. It takes days to weeks to heal an impact injury, so just because the impact didn’t occur 10 seconds from when the strain happened, doesn’t mean it isn’t an impact injury.

    And hence, I disagree with Tom.

  27. I’m impressed by he credentials of the people in the empty of Arsenal Football Club:

    England national team physios
    German World Cup winning national team physios
    Freelancing physios such as those referred to above (shame the Groaners and Experts above attempt to airbrush this entire sector of their industry out of their attempts to attack the club as witnessed above. It’s too funny for school!

    The kind of physios that don’t need to trumpet their “credentials” upon someone else’s blog as they attempt to undermine the Numbers with their “Opinion”.

    It must have no shame.

  28. Gord

    ‘For me, an obvious example is the hamstring injury during a game; a person is either in a full sprint, or close to it, and you seem them collapse, often grabbing at the hamstring. It’s a soft tissue injury. It occurred in a game, it is not a training issue problem.’

    There’s an old football adage ‘you play like you practice’ , therefore most training sessions will require some full out sprints. Also training drills can get quite competitive , after all how do you think players get picked for games?
    Well maybe not at Arsenal in our current state where our squad picks itself, but under normal circumstances each training session is in fact an ‘audition’ for 20-30% of squad players. It can get as physical as during games. Hamstring injuries do happen in training too.

  29. @Tom,
    The statement that hamstring and groin injuries can not be caused by contact is just plain wrong. The hamstring muscles attach at the tibia and fibula, and injury occurs when they are stretched beyond their limit. It is not that far fetched for a foul to put a leg in an unnatural position, resulting in overstretching of the muscle group. Repeated fouls throughout a game will definitely increase the likelihood of injury, especially if the player alters their running temporarily to compensate for the original foul.

    As for the players trying to play through pain, it’s 1 due to adrenaline at the time as well as the professional athletes being the ultimate competitors. All players will try their best to do what they can to stay in the game if possible. It’s short-sighted I agree, but it’s that competitiveness that made them top athletes.

    In regards to the players that are injured with limited playing time, some of them are still international players and get injured while on international duty (i.e. Rosicky and Walcott’s setback)

  30. Gord

    Here’s a little tidbit you might not find by Google search. Football clubs don’t like to admit to injuries sustained in training. It makes them look bad.
    Back in my days there was never any training ground injuries reported officially.

    Every training ground knock was allocated to the last game on record.

  31. If the injury is due to impact in practice, I would still say it should not be considered a training issue. Yes, in the martial arts people what subject themselves to repeated impacts. I do not think any manager has players kneel on the ground so that someone can kick them in the hamstring (and probably from different directions so that semi-tendonosis, semi-membranosis and biceps femoris all get attention), and then have them do wind sprints.

  32. Gord
    Forgetting all that, anyone who attempts to argue that any athlete trying to play on through injury is the fault of any club or physios is talking out of their Arsenal.

    If the FA had listened to the BMC then heading in football would’ve been outlawed in the fifties! Outlawing heading is not a new suggestion. Lighter balls in football did not evolve for no reason.

    No credentials except for honesty required here. Just on these pages a few weeks ago I suggested there should be physios at top clubs who during games watch live feeds of the game for the reasons is then gave.

    “Tom” certainly has unimpeachable credentials in humiliating itself.

  33. Tom, I can believe false accounting. I don’t think that was part of the news article we are disecting.

    Jerry, not every person who is injured plays in pain, adrenaline or not. For whatever reason, I have no pain receptors in my knees. I have sustained 2nd degree MCL sprains in my right knee twice, and 2 strange sprains in my left knee twice. No pain. I know a person (originally from the UK) who had no pain receptors period. He got caught in a landslide in Tibet (I believe) once, and needed surgery. They had no morphine. They operated on him with no anesthetic.

    Personally, I think it is bad when a person lacks pain receptors. Pain is there for a reason.

  34. Jerry
    I never said they can’t be caused by contact, but they usually aren’t.

    Re. Walcott and Rosicky, are you suggesting they got kicked while on international duty? Do you have that information?

    Regarding Walcott. I would treat his groin as a separate case all together.

    He’s coming back from a very serious injury , which btw is exactly what I said in real time of him sustaining his ACL , when there was talk of him possibly making the World Cup( hysterical), or silver linings how he was to come back even stronger this season.

    Here’s what I said at the time;

    There are no silver linings I’m afraid, especially with speedsters like Wallcot you have to be very careful with what not too long ago could’ve been a career ending injury. His involvement this season will be spotty at best. Hopefully he won’t lose any of his speed.

  35. Gnabry’s extremely serious injury was sustained in training.
    Don’t think anyone has heard any denials from the about how the injury occurred or that the player has an injury.

    Give a troll a shovel.

  36. @Tom

    ‘2.Not enough squad rotation. Playing certain players more minutes than humanly possible and thus taking chances with their fitness.
    E.g Ramsey last season . 31 games in all competitions by Dec 26th( injury), when other players in similar positions logged only 21 to 24 games in the same time period.’

    Absolute nonsense. When nearly half the squad are out injured including 4 or 5 probable first choicers how on earth is Wenger in a position to rotate even if he wanted to?
    Furthermore the best and most successful teams hardly ever rotate their back 5 and that is where our main problems have been, stability is key in this area of the team. Compare our multiple different defensive line ups so far this season to Chelsea, who have had the same back 5 all season. No wonder our defense looks shaky at times.

  37. Re: Gnabry
    Real shame for a player who was on the fringes of the German WC winning squad (That was what his manager said before the tournament).

    Let’s hope he can eventually get his career back on track.

    Fortunately for Theo Walcott he has been advised by his physios (private, which according to our resident expert don’t exist with his industry! And the club’s too) to go for a relatively tried and tested procedure and process. Not experimental surgery as demanded by his special agent in order to facilitate a quick buck, I mention no names: Falcao.

    Yup. Theo’s team seem like amaeturs in comparison.

    Fingers crossed, but he’s missed a large chunk of football now, most of the last season and a half. Will take some months to build up the stamina again. You don’t need to be a expert to get that, we’ve seen players undergo this process time after time. Indeed we have lots of data to support that observation. Numbers 😉

  38. Tom, I am going to disagree with you about most strains being not caused by contact. If you want to say immediate contact, fine I can agree with that. But if someone suffers a strain, you really have to go back for all the game before the strain becomes apparent, and the warmup, and possibly other stuff; and find out if there was an impact. Lose you balance and jam your leg into a pipe 2 hours before game time. If the strain occurs close to the spot where the pipe got you, it is an impact injury. It doesn’t matter that the strain happened 3 hours later at the end of the game. Three hours is an insufficient time for the impact to heal.

    Until that process is done consistently for every strain, we don’t know what fractions of strains are impact. And in that line of thought; people saying most strains are over-stretching, are stretching the truth. Making up facts not in evidence.

  39. Mick
    When comparing numbers of players Like Ramsey , you need to compare them to like for like players eg Toure for Man City , when his most often fielded position was box to box midfielder(24 games till dec 24 last year)

    We’ve been through this before . Ramsey didn’t get overplayed because there was no other options but because he was our best player last season. Arsene Wenger said it himself it was hard to drop him because he was on fire.

    It’s hard to rest players who carry your team. Look at Alexis . He’s been our best player this season but players like Wallcot have been on the record to tell him ‘ pace yourself , the festive season is coming’.

    It’s not up to Alexis to pace himself, that’s how he plays . But it’s up to the manager to do it for him.

    Also regarding our back 5 . Let’s no confuse rotation with what we’ve been doing.

  40. In my country, we bought insurance for players. When players injured durimg games, the premium went up . the league co. went to play clubs to demand for fairer play and the number of injuries in the league reduced. Of course, the premium went down too. Fans are also happy because there is no raise of ticket prices too.

    I am not sure if EPL is doing it. Anyone to enlighten me?

  41. Gord
    ‘Tom, I am going to disagree with you about most strains being not caused by contact. If you want to say immediate contact, fine I can agree with that. But if someone suffers a strain, you really have to go back for all the game before the strain becomes apparent, and the warmup, and possibly other stuff; and find out if there was an impac’

    That’s fine , we can agree to disagree, but you are disagreeing with every physio and most managers on the record about soft tissue injuries.
    Martinez and others spoke about this at length.

    Also, do you suppose world class sprinters get a lot of contact in their training or lose their balance a lot, since muscle pulls are the Nr injury for sprinters and track and field athletes in general?

  42. Jeremy Wilson is a mere scribbler!.

    The chappie who is being quoted, has recently set up his Premier League Limited company. What are his qualifications? A chappie on twitter, twittering drivel?

    How much was Wilson paid for this “insightful” advert, for a new company?

    Extract the broken limbs of the Arsenal players during the years under review, how many other clubs had the same number of broken limbs?

    Tony and Walter’s work, warrants more attention than anything that a scribbler like Wilson makes up.

  43. Tom. I am not saying that players don’t suffer strains purely from stretching or sprinting. I am saying that football has other reasons as well, and just because sprinters get most of their sprains in a certain way, doesn’t mean that football players get most that way.

    I have no problem disagreeing physios and phys ed graduates. I am an engineer (materials science and engineering), and I probably understand forces better than they do. I’ve done athletic first aid for more than 20 years, and taught weightlifting for about 10 years. And I’ve contributed enough to medical/biological graduate research, to be named an Adjunct Professor of Pharmacy at one point. I don’t have a problem understanding what is going on, diong my own medical research, or analysing things.

    While I was gone shopping (go to make bread crumbs, needed some poultry herbs and sea salt), it occured to me that perhaps managers could look at players (probably naked, sorry) through an infrared camera. If a player had recently suffered an impact, the region should show up as slightly warmer due to excess blood in the tissue near the contact point (broken blood vessels in the contact).

    As flesh is transparent to some wavelengths, some kind of transmission imaging more specific for blood could be done. Perhaps that would require ingesting a dye to get into the blood stream?

  44. * * *

    Broadcasters. As has unfortunately already happened in a cricket they’ll pack the schedules for revenue not leaving the top players in each sport enough time off or enough recovery time. In cricket true top top fast bowlers can only learn by playing at the top, same as in any sport, they are a dying breed for this reason alone. At least it’s harder for them, and there are less of them at the moment. That is of course a generalisation, there are other factors too. Why put your body through that ordeal for five days when you can play 20/20 instead? Though that too is related to the broadcasters.
    Is this a potential future for Football? The top players having to chose what games and tournaments they play in, devaluing the rest? Has it already happened? We see clubs having to rotate for CL games because they have no choice, ‘Pool at Madrid etc.

    Which all makes me appreciate the obvious ethos at AFC all the more. Not for no reason are the England physios from AFC!

    Broadcasters think of athletes as cattle. Lots of evidence, even numbers, for that conclusion. Across different sports. You don’t need to be a certified wally to work that one out.

  45. choose 🙁
    I’m getting close to the conclusion that Autocorrect is one of the worst inventions of all time. A bad craftsmen never blames his tools…

  46. @ Gord
    Infra-red cameras? Genius. I was kidding the other week when I made the suggestion that all top football teams should have the equivalent of an F1 Control center to monitor players during games*, but it seems like you could be onto something here. There have been some bespoke and interesting use of thermal imaging cameras out there, the type a supermarket uses to monitor the cattle sorry I mean people, this could be very good suggestion. Though everything’d depend on the quality of the camera! Maybe, possibly. But a hippy physio would probably disagree with you!

    At the other end of the scale I’ve been treated by an amazing osteopath (I don’t need to whip out his credentials, but he’s practising 😉 and like the physio referred to above practising well), and they don’t even need scans to see some stuff, just training and experience. Though if you’ve had a scan done and you’re off to see an osteopath take it along as I’m sure it’d be helpful!

    Osteopathy, sports science, acupuncture (even Biggus Sammus has had players dabble with needles!), the whole party, it’s a massive field with incredible levels of expertise out there. And AFC have recently hired one of the top rated people in the game. the whole world saw his credentials as Özil, who is perhaps similar to Silva in stamina (total guess!) played through a WC after his first full PL season,and won! Praise be to the football gods for the experts here 🙂

  47. < played all the way through a World Cup in S.America right after his first full PL season

  48. Refreshing to see the most important issue facing Arsenal debated constructively with minimal trolling. Quite educational (for me) as well.

  49. Finsbury, I think I have as many problems with fumble fingers, as you do with autocorrect. 🙂

  50. @Tom, in regards to the international duty injuries, I did not say they were kicked, it could of been possible, but I didn’t watch Rosicky’s games.

    Walcott was injured in training for international duty.

    I was stating these cases because if they’re hurt training during International duty, they weren’t hurt in Wenger’s training as you suggested, unless Wenger is the one that gave the international manager the training plan for his player, which is unlikely.

  51. Rooney is an interesting player.

    On Positively Arsenal the past two summers some discussed if the player would through better training be able to regain his better form. Then towards the end of last season the player said he had improved his training and was training harder. It appears to have been worthwhile even though from afar he seems to have had like any player the usual ups and downs this season. I thought he’d struggle, he’s obviously worked hard.

    It would be ludicrous especially for someone who should know better to blame Utd or any other club for any possible slackness before with what I understand to be is a training programme designed by a player, his own physios and his club or national team when appropriate? Definitely not just the or a club 😉 Managers and players disagreeing over their schedules and or programes is another matter, but I would guess that happens in all clubs at all levels so for myself I wouldn’t worry about it. Funny in RVP’s case 🙂 True to say that side of things is evolving very quickly, influence from other sports, data analysis, concussion and everything else. Very complicated. I don’t know much about it.
    Arsenal bought up some data tech and stuff company, which is vaguely intriguing. Think there was even a post about it on Untold. If the intention is to have access to data that others don’t that’s quite smart.

    But anyone, even I, can make the observation that led to the previous and not serious control centre suggestion the other week, that athletes sometimes ignore their physios, or play on through injury. At AFC in recent times both Vermaelan and Wilshere ignored advice and rush themselves back (different to someone trying to play on during a game with an injury). Did Vermaelan roll the dice and rush himself back for the WC and then pick up that serious injury? Even if it were true who could blame him? He’s a professional athlete/footballer. Should Koscielny have stayed at home this summer and not gone to the WC, considering the red mist in Kiev had cost him his starting place, and everything else? I wouldn’t be the one to ask him. Fortunately that moment, heh, against Ukraine meant he played less then he might of.

    If that last thought on Koscielny raises the question of transfers in someone’s mind, the January window is very close 🙂
    There is a match before that! If Rosicky is ready for a start it’d be a bonus, but that’s probably unlikely after a few weeks out of training? We won’t know.

    Rosicky is another interesting case! Tendons *shivers*

    Rosicky’s returned for end of season runs to some effect. The torture of Tottenham.
    Has he been kept in reserve this autumn because he is, as seen in recent weeks, vulnerable to ‘niggles’ (you can tell I’m an expert!), protected for when he’ll again be most valuable in the squad, even if not starting every game? That’s a speculative guess at one of the considerations there’d be with him (this year wanting to play England’s best player of late into fitness and form etc.? Which was happening as seen in those recent England games…thanks PGMO)

  52. Good article, Tony.

    On the one hand, it is helpful that the article in the Telegraph highlights how Arsenal has been affected by injuries.

    But on the other hand, by refusing to mention the referees and by failing to consider the mass of evidence produced by Untold about injuries as a result of poor and biased refereeing, the article allows those who choose to to point the finger at Arsene Wenger. This is completely unhelpful.

  53. yes Nick Lee, not a vintage first half of the season, I am sure you will join us in hoping for better things next year.

  54. Pat Arsenal might be hampered by injuries (again) so why go into the season light in defense and defensive cover?Is that not a gamble our manager has taken?We have conceded 21 goals so far(most in the top 6) with having to bring youngsters in as cover so i would say the gamble has failed.The way we defend is a different matter and something Arsene doesn’t care for much

  55. Mandy if you mean scraping into the top 4 again yes i can see it .But challenging for major honors,not a cat in hells chance.I cant remember the last time i watched a vintage arsenal its that long ago .sad but true!!!

  56. We have probably covered this ground before but it is still relevant as evidence goes.
    @andy bishop – Stoke ve Chelsea game.. injury to Hazard was physical contact in no way connected to getting the ball. There was also an incident shown a half time where Costa kicks Shawcross off the ball on purpose. An incident that the FA would in previous years review and punish (but this year Chelsea being the chosen team…).

    In the Arsenal v Man U match there were a few injuries following the game but 2 clear incidents that the FA should review were the deliberate tackle on Jack Wilshere by Uniteds new hatchet apprentice Paddy McNair and the push by Fellaini (aka the toilet brush) on Gibbs resulting in the injury to Szczesny & preceded their first ‘goal’. The PGMO officials ignored the obvious foul (a two handed vicious push on Gibbs while he was off the floor onto Szczesny) which resulted in physical injury to the goal keeper who was sidelined for several matches. Wilshere is still sidelined due to the injury sustained in that game. It would be interesting if Arsenal claimed compensation from the FA for loss of players due to poor officiating & lack of protection.

    It is easy to say that Wenger is responsible for these injuries because he put these players out to play for Arsenal. He should not have allowed Jack to play the ball. He should have trained Gibbs to deviate when pushed so that he would not injure a team mate!

    It is obvious that the reality is that the officials did not react correctly to the incidents & issue appropriate cards to the perpetrators ensuring safety of players by setting a correct example.

    The Telegraph remains the media sewer as described by Karl Marks.

  57. Well Nick, they won the FA cup, when most critics said they would never win another trophy under Wenger.
    The ECL and EPL title- a very tough ask up against the sugar daddy clubs, the state and state bank funded that have had vastly superior funding over the years, then the eternally rich Utd or the counduit of third party ownership that has been Athletico.
    Like it or not, 4th place is probably where we sit under our current funding and ownership, but I would hope and expect to challenge for a bit more than 4th place, the club should continue to aim to punch above its weight, not at its weight. That said, keeping us there during the stadium issues will be seen in the future as a major achievement.
    You may not like, rate or appreciate Wenger but if there really is a limit of ambition within the club to finish 4th, do you really thing a man who has achieved as much is Wenger is the main protagonist of this?
    Unfortunately, we have not been set up to compete with the Spanish giants, Bayern, Utd ,Chelsea, City. there is always the chance of one offs, and potential improvements over time, some may find that depressing, but thats the way it is.
    Vintage Arsenal….yes, not at the present moment, but I am sure we can remember a lot worse before Wenger came

  58. One obvious topic which our qualified expert above attempts to avoid is doping in football. Now this definitely a topic about which I know little. Nothing.

    But I am sure any physio out there understands and appreciates that AFC are one of the few top level clubs in football testing their players to the appropriate guidelines. WADA have in recent times asked FUFA to improve their standards repetitively. That’s not an opinion, but a humble observation.

    At AFC we had Lauren test positive for EPO (Lance Armstrong etc.) in, what was it, 2002! Fourteen years ago. Is it therefore correct to conclude that FUFA testing procedures have been behind WADA guidelines since then? That AFC, in spite of any justifiable critiques that may exist are one of the few top football clubs who can be seen to be proactive in this area? In Lauren’s case I understand that Lauren had no idea what had been done to him previous to his arrival, he’d been lied to!

    I support AFC. Warts an’ all 😉

  59. Finsbury,
    I remember Wenger making a remark a few years ago that they sometimes get strange blood results when they test new players.

  60. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the oilier clubs in the league had dabbled in performance enhancing drugs, considering their suspiciously low number of injuries, and the well known prevalence of such substances in certain parts of the world…

  61. Quincy
    Godolphin Stables? Don’t say it.


    It could n-n-n-never happen here.
    I don’t have eighteen years worth of experience clearing out the local barn (Highbury Barn) which admittedly is not the same as a top top stable (it’s a pub!) but that is an outrageous suggestion 😉

    Given the blood bank burning stories coming out of Spain it’s a story I prefer not to think about, but I would have thought that an ambitious 24/7 Football Hack-Dwarf would’ve picked up on the story?

    Merry Xmas and thank you again for the time and commitment from yourself and your team of reviewers. Your efforts are appreciated.

  62. Until the skill factor in UK raises across the board in youth football, we will always have the “rough and tough” elements in football.
    It is a natural response for most people that when you can’t compete is to to try some other way to stop them. That way in football is the deliberate foul.

    So i guess we are stuck with it until the youth change their style of play, which as we know, they are already doing. Another generation of footballers and soon the rough and tough will be gone.

    Alas many of us won’t see that.

    Anyway for all those who deal in XMAS, have a good one.

  63. Things have to start somewhere.

    I wrote to the UK HSE bringing up players being injured due to decisions by supervising officials. Asking for advise on how to pursue this. I did not mention the sport, let alone the team.

    Let’s see how they respond (could be they ignore the email).

    Have a good Christmas.

  64. no chance on the league title until this injury is sorted out. doesn’t matter who or how many players we bring in. one fact not in debate is that we have worse injury record than any other team.

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