Is this really an injury crisis or just a figment of a journalist’s imagination?

Is this an injury crisis? 

By Tim Charlesworth

Based on the choices that Wenger has made over the last twelve months or so, his five top players for the right wing/right midfield position appear to be (in no particular order):

  • Aaron Ramsey
  • The Ox
  • Jack Wilshere
  • Danny Welbeck
  • Theo Walcott

All of these players are now injured.  This is certainly an injury crisis in this position, by any standards, and you could argue that Rosicky could play this position as well.  But one position does not make an injury crisis.

Football is a squad game nowadays and the idea of a first eleven almost seems a bit outmoded in the days of 60 game seasons, rotation and much more frequent injuries.  However, Wenger still seems to use the concept, and I don’t think the idea is quite dead yet.  It seems to me that a clear first choice eleven has emerged, this season.  It is roughly:


Bellerin    BFG/Gabriel   Koscielny   Monreal

Le Coq   Cazorla

Ramsey Ozil   Sanchez


There are two major areas of uncertainty:

1:  No9/CF: Walcott has recently edged Giroud for the starting position, but Giroud is fighting back impressively with good performances and goals from the bench. Giroud seemed to be first choice at the start of the season, then it looked like there was a bit of rotation, but Walcott seems to be preferred in recent games, starting against Man U, Watford and Bayern.  I think Giroud may have been a bit unlucky.  He seemed to lose his place after the (definitely unlucky) Dinamo red card.    It almost looks as if Wenger was a bit angry with him for losing us that match.  It didn’t help his cause when Walcott came on, looked good, and scored.  Maybe Giroud got his place back on merit, after starting and scoring against Everton.  Maybe it was just rotation.   Either way, he will now get a run in the team following Walcott’s injury and it doesn’t look like Walcott will easily recover his status as preferred starter.

Giroud is a very big, strong player.  I think he is particularly awkward for defenders to deal with when they are tired.  Perhaps you could argue he is the ideal substitute, but you could make just as good an argument for Walcott – that his pace is hard to handle when defenders are tired.  Perhaps tactical considerations have helped Walcott. His pace intimidates teams and makes them stand off.  This is makes our opponents less effective in attack.  This is useful at the start of a game, as it prevents the kind of bad starts hurt us so badly in the 13/14 season.  Everton and Swansea looked a bit more comfortable with Walcott not playing, but Sanchez still provides some pace-based threat.  Giroud provides a counter attacking outlet as well because he can hold the ball up and he can act as a pivot to the flying midfielders.  They are such different players that it is very difficult to make a clear choice between them.

2:  Centre back: The BFG and Gabriel are looking close.  I am in the minority of fans who prefer Gabriel.  They have hardly ever been simultaneously fit this season, so it is difficult to see which one Wenger prefers.  Earlier in the season, it looked like the BFG was getting the nod over Gabriel, but Gabriel has played so well, that this is no longer clear.  Both were available for the Olympiacos game, and Gabriel got the start, but this was a game where Wenger rotated, so it was not clear that Gabriel got the start on merit.  Prior to that, we have to go back to PL game 2 on 16th August v Palace to find a game where both were available.  Mertesacker started then, with Gabriel on the bench.

Much like Giroud and Walcott, they bring very different things to the team.  The BFG brings calmness, leadership, ball control and height.  Gabriel brings pace, athleticism and a fierce competitive passion.  Perhaps Wenger will use tactical consideration to decide between the two, rather than have a clear first choice?

With both finally available again, I was really surprised that the BFG started against Swansea.   The BFG played in midweek against Sheffield Wednesday.  I had therefore assumed that Gabriel would play the Swansea match and the BFG would play at Bayern.  I presume that the BFG will still play against Bayern, but if so, why didn’t Wenger start Gabriel against Wednesday?

If the BFG plays in Munich, that will be three matches in 8 days.  Surely this was unnecessary, when Gabriel was available?  The Bayern game will suit Mertesacker.  We are likely to play deep and therefore won’t need too much centre half pace, but probably will need experience, presence and calmness under pressure.

So what is Wenger doing?  I wonder if there is some rotation pattern involving the Tottenham match that I haven’t considered?  Is there something we don’t know about Gabriel’s fitness following his mysterious absence for two matches following a ‘minor operation’?  Is Wenger upset with Gabriel’s Chelsea dismissal, just as he seems to have been upset by Giroud’s Dinamo dismissal?  Is it simply that Wenger values his BFG-skipper so highly that he can’t bear to bench him even against Sheffield Wednesday?

So, it may be that we really have thirteen players in our first choice eleven.  The interesting thing about this first choice eleven is that it has been mostly available this season.  Our major injuries, so far, have been to Welbeck, Rosicky and Wilshere, but it is not clear that any of those would be in the first choice eleven (Wilshere probably closest).  They are mostly backup players, who haven’t really been needed because the players that they back up have mostly not been injured.  So injuries have hardly disrupted our team at all.  Perhaps the worst instance was the Liverpool game, when we lost both centre backs, but even then, Gabriel was very strong and the game seemed to do Chambers good.

If I could choose which of our players would get injured, I would tend to choose the centre forwards or centre backs, where the first choice is not that obvious anyway.  And these are the positions in which we have seen the most injuries and suspensions, with Walcott, Giroud, the Boss, BFG and Gabriel all missing games – Cazorla was suspended for a CC match that he wouldn’t have played in anyway.

And then Ospina gets injured.  He is also a backup player, but a politically difficult one.  Wenger was under pressure to pick Cech for the Bayern game (it seems he may have promised Ospina that he would start CL games).  And then the problem goes away – if Wenger could have picked one player to come back injured from the interlull, I am pretty sure it would be Ospina.

If I wasn’t allowed to choose CB/CF for an injury to our first eleven, I would choose Ramsey, as he is playing out of position, so is perhaps the weakest members of that team.  And hey presto, Ramsey is injured.  The situation has now deteriorated slightly with the injury to the Ox, but Campbell did well against Swansea, and we are still only denied our first choice player in one of eleven positions.

The players that are really difficult to replace (Ozil, Sanchez, Cazorla, Coquelin) have remained largely injury free.  We lost Coquelin against Chelsea, but that match was already lost anyway with a referee determined to achieve a Chelsea win.  Le Coq’s injury was brief.  He also missed the Leicester game, but as we scored five, it didn’t really do us any harm.  Ozil missed the Newcastle game, but this was a good game to miss as we played most of it against ten men and we managed a win without him.

So, by my reckoning, our good fortune with injuries continues.   Of course, as the old saying goes, you make your own luck.  Our squad is deeper with more good quality cover.  In previous posts, I have suggested that our injury record seems to be finally improving following some developments at the club, not least of which is the acquisition of Shad Forsythe.  Overall, our injuries are much better, in terms of numbers and severity, than in recent seasons.  We have had a little blip now, and certainly the number of hamstring injuries is something that requires investigation.  Even so, hamstring injuries are an occupational hazard for sprinters like Theo and the Ox for obvious physiological reasons, and we probably shouldn’t get too excited about them.

Perhaps we are due some good fortune after several years of injury misery.  I will also whisper it, but teams that win leagues, tend to have reasonably good fortune with injuries.  Its early days, but it looks good so far (I am clutching lucky rabbits feet encased in wood, with crossed fingers, as I type this).  Certainly, by the standards of recent years, this is not an injury crisis.


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21 Replies to “Is this really an injury crisis or just a figment of a journalist’s imagination?”

  1. Interesting. Bellerin could also play right wing with Gibbs coming in.
    Where I disagree is that Ramsay is first 11. Wenger invariably plays him. That he plays him out of position is a compliment to his versatility and work rate.

  2. @Tim,
    The sound of 5 wounded warriors for the job on right wing are slightly less worrying when you remember the forays conducted in that position by Hector Bellerin every time he takes to the field.
    In any event, it appears that Walcott, Ramsey and Chamberlain have not sustained longterm injuries, while Wilshere and Welbeck and well on the way to total recovery.
    I join with you in praising Gabriel Paulista (25th birthday this month)as the natural successor to Mertesacker. This no-nonsense Vieira-like central defender is yet another magical
    signing by Arsene Wenger. 😉

  3. I am in agreement with luscious Lisa that Ramsey is probably not in first 11. It’s a shame welbeck is injured as I believe he would give us the perfect balance if he played wide right. He has pace , strength, skill, workrate and would add goals. Welbeck is a team player through and through. He would also contribute to the defensive side at dead balls . I await his return with anticipation….

  4. Tim – I agree with you in part. However, what the extent, if not the distribution, of injuries does mean is that rotation is very difficult so therefore injuries to the current XI become more likely. Let’s hope we can hang on for two more games – and then get a batch back over the interlull.

  5. So the injury crisis seems to be not an injury crisis, yet we are a little alarmed that we have lost Theo and Ox, especially for the Spurs game.

    The Bayern game is a so-so game for me. If the lads play well and win then good, if they lose, well i hope not by any ridiculous score. I really could not make any predictions for the Bayern game.

    On the other hand i would secretly really like us to win by a ridiculous score 🙂
    Do we really want to play on Thursdays? 🙁 🙁

  6. As injuries have always been the bane of a sustained challenge in the past , we have a larger pool of players to counter it this time around . Whoever gets the nod will have to step up and get stuck in .
    In every set back for one , there is an opportunity for another to prosper . It’s mind over matter .


    Wolves were creating a menace for quite some time in a village, especially after darkness has descended. To rid of this problem, the village council decided to offer incentives of Rs.1000 for every wolf captured alive.

    Good friends Vivek & Vikas, living in the same village are in their early twenties. Vikas is considered to be adventurous of the two. Vikas manages to convince Vivek to undertake a joint operation with idea of making a quick buck.

    On a Saturday evening both of them begin their journey (with the paraphernalia) through the thick forest searching for their prey. After few hours, they feel exhausted and go to sleep. In the middle of night, Vivek is woken up by growls from wolves.

    He fond himself surrounded by a group of 10 wolves. He was engulfed by fear and could see his end anytime that night. He gently wakes up his friend Vikas and asks him “are you feeling the same?”

    Vikas looked at his friend and said “yes, we have become richer by Rs.10, 000 and my thoughts are on the multiple ways we could spend that astronomical amount” – indeed, a positive attitude.

    PS: many times a common man becomes a hero or a celebrity by performing a task which others FEAR to TREAD. A positive attitude gives you power over your circumstances instead of your circumstances having power over you. A strong and positive attitude creates more miracles than any other thing.

    Like building a massive stadium in dump ! Or a great team from scratch .

  7. ‘Start by doing what is necessary . Then do what is possible . Suddenly you are doing the impossible .’

    Saint Francis of Assisi.

  8. Mike Dean . oh Mike Dean ! When will though stop exposing your dirty linings . Hope Lord Sugar is building you an estate in North London for this your Tottenham love.

  9. Over past 12 months we have seen two young stars develop well when injuries gave them a chance to shine – namely Bellerin and Coquelin. Is this luck, or a natural state of affairs i.e. good players take their chances? Is Campbell about to be the third? If he can demonstrate the same consistent performance over next 2 or 3 matches he could move up the pecking order above the Ox. The introduction of Gabriel into the first team squad has also been a success.

    All the AW haters will say this is just luck, but what we are seeing is the gradual and continuous development of a talented squad that allows both sensible rotation and tactical flexibility according to the different opposition. With young players like Akpom, Hayden, Bieliek and Reine-Adelaide to be steadily introduced over the next season or so, then the process continues.

    Adding specific world class players like Ozil, Sanchez and Cech is the icing on the cake. We now have a team who can once again compete for silverware with style.

  10. @Barry,
    I agree with all you say about the need to integrate youngsters who show promise, into the first team squad. Although Arsenal now have a war chest of sizeable means for new signings, there will always be room for those, already in waiting, who deserve advancement.
    A rolling programme of promoting youth on merit has always been Arsenal’s watchword and long may this continue. 😉

  11. When you are second from the top in the league injury table, then yes, you are having an injury crisis of sorts.

    Let’s face it , Arsenal will always be on the brink of an injury crisis because of Arsene Wenger’s undying loyalty to his players.

    Arteta is being groomed for a coaching role so he can’t be moved on , even though everyone can see he’s not fit enough to give Arsenal much of anything on the pitch these days.

    Rosicky is another one. When fit, he’s barely used for some unknown reasons, since Wenger has been on record stating “if you love football, you love Rosicky”. But staying fit has always been a problem for Tomas Rosicky through out his career.

    Wilsher’s style of play makes him an obvious target for late tackles by opposition and his own defenders apparently, which in turn hampers his availability.

    Then you have your speedsters, who should be treated with extra caution and sometimes are not.

    Ox stretching routine before the SW game should’ve raised a red flag for Arsene Wenger immediately.

    Inserting Walcott in his place soon after without a proper warm up , wasn’t Wenger’s managerial finest hour either. I would’ve questioned the logic of having Walcott on the bench for this game to begin with.

    The ideologues amongs us will say Arsenal are a class apart in the manner they treat their players and they might be right, but those are the same people who advocated for extending Diaby’s contract last season based solely on the fact he got hurt on the job.

    Unfortunately you can’t have it both ways. You can’t stay loyal to all the players who have a history of not being able to stay fit , and mount a sustainable challenge on all fronts.

    On the plus side, at least we don’t have to hear the usual nonsense from certain quarters how all ,or at least most of our injury problems originate from bad opposition tackles.

    Not a single Arsenal injury this season was an effect of a bad opposition tackle, although Im sure as soon as one happens, the usual suspect will come out of the woodwork banging their drum.

    Arsenal can’t win the title with Giroud as the spearhead of their attack said Thierry Henry in his scathing critique of his compatriot.

    The opposite is true in my opinion.
    Arsenal won’t win the title without Giroud staying fit, seeing how he is the work horse( and has been) for his team.

    Arsene Wenger will have to do some clever maneuvering between now and the time when he gets some of his injured players back.
    Hopefully he succeeds.

  12. yes, saw Deans celebration after the Spurs goal.
    Strange, he is a Liverpool fan, and Spurs could rival his team for a top four place.
    Mike Dean always used to do anything he could to handicap Arsenal in his all too regular performances when we played Spurs.. some on here wondered if he had some strange thing going on with Redknapp, but now I do wonder.
    Just hope we done have him this weekend, …..or Atkinson.
    As for the injuries, we do have cover options at the moment, just hope we dont lose more after some tough games, and another meaningless interlull. The trouble is, as Wenger says,, we do have some injury prone players….some very injury prone players. Then there is the PGMOL factor, but is appears the club are doing all they can to combat this, Shad and other staff, perhaps subtly different ways of playing, a revamp of training/fitness/medic facilities coming up.
    But, it cannot be denied, we do suffer more injuries than some of our rivals, so, as ever with Arsenal, fingers firmly crossed.

  13. I watched the Dean performance & thought Remy Garde must have learnt something about the PGMO cheats. Villa were not allowed any leeway while the tots got away with a lot of physical intimidation. Dean is a showcase of the FA. He represents the sickness of corrupt control. The sooner this whole football debacle is clensed the better for the Game. The Laws according to PGMO must be exposed but the media are just as corrupt.

  14. @Mandy. It’s Atkinson against Spurs. They could’ve hardly sent Dean twice in a row to Spurs. Never mind that Arsenal never want to see him again.

  15. The last time we had so many injuries in one position was 2006, when we used 7 left backs but got to the CL final and was only 15 minutes away from winning it.
    Maybe this season we will bring the trophy home. Yeah I know not likely but football has a habit of the unlikely.

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