The desperation of the journalists who try to blame Mr Wenger for the injuries

They have tried blaming the pitch, the grass, and above all they have tried blaming  Arsène Wenger.   They are the press and their blogetta camp followers.  They seize on comments such that “Arsenal have held a comprehensive internal analysis of the club’s preparation and training” when in fact all sensible Premier League clubs do exactly the same all the time.

They make no mention of course of other clubs, because such information rather damages the simplistic quick and easy journalism that the papers love.  And indeed that their journalists love, because it means a quick knock out of a story without facts and then down the pub.

But a look at the top of the league table of injuries from shows that Arsenal are, even now, not out on their own, the pariah of injuries.

1 Newcastle United 12
2 Arsenal 8
3 Bournemouth 7
4 Liverpool 7
5 Tottenham Hotspur 7


So no mention of the times when Arsenal was mid-table.  No mention of the fat that three clubs (two of which are currently beloved of the media) are only one point behind Arsenal in the injury league table.  And certainly no mention of Newcastle, because their manager is a good guy.

But once again more space for Raymond Verheijen, a man utterly unqualified in the world of injury prevention and treatment but top of the list when it comes to Wenger-bashing.

“The former Wales fitness coach has repeatedly blamed the work-load on Arsenal’s players for injuries and was again critical of what he called the “old school” approach of Wenger,” screamed the Telegraph virtually running word for word an article from a couple of years ago.

They even turned Mr Wenger’s run of the mill statement into a vision of crisis: “We have to analyse every single case and every single exercise.  When a player is injured, they are injured, this has always happened. We have not too many muscular injuries but it is post-international games we get all these injuries and is it linked with that?”

Of Verheijen’s criticism, Mr Wenger said: “This guy looks like he knows absolutely everything. I am amazed that he knows more than all our physios and all our doctors. I trust my medical staff to do well and my coaching staff to do the fitness planning very well.

“I can only invite you one day to see what work is done behind and we have some players who are more injury prone than others, but we are very well organised on that front. We have players every years who play 50 games and some who play less games because they are more injury prone. Sometimes you know ideally you have to rest a player because he has given a lot, but if he has played extremely well in the game before and you have won and the player says he feels perfectly alright, it is difficult to say you don’t play…

“We have a very big squad.  We are not shutting the door [on transfers] as well. If we find opportunities, we will do them;  having everybody back, especially offensively, I feel we have what we need. I said during the transfer period that we would take players who can strengthen our squad, but we did not find them. The question was not even ‘do we sign them or not?’ we have not found one player who could strengthen our squad.”

We have dealt with Raymond Verheijen before, but since he has been dragged out of the depths once again, let’s consider him again.   Verheijen blames Wenger and his training methods for all injuries, but never comments on the greater level of injuries of other teams.   The message is simplistic and endlessly re-run.  Because Mr Wenger trains his team as ‘marines’ they suffer.  

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 overplayed and undertrained, and then they get injured because they have done too much.  So he’s not really the right man to be critical about clubs and their training methods.

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.”

His comments seem to suggest that injuries will occur starting from  3-4 months into the season. And he said that the same things occurs time and time again and called Wenger his training methods as prehistoric.

So in our earlier article Walter asked the obvious question: what do the numbers say? Is there a period when injuries suddenly become an issue after 3-4 months into the season?

This season it seems as if the answer is yes, but in fact over the past 12 years the answer is no – the main injury period is February, followed by December – the period when we are playing the most games.  

In our earlier analysis we pointed out 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 to do with good referees.

I think it was somewhere around Lecture One of Day One at university that I was told that evidence, explanation, theory and testing are all part of science – you really do need them all if you want to find cause and effect.

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 plus samples bigger than one club.

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.

In this approach you develop theories on such evidence as you have, and then ask the question: is this likely, given all that we know.

So one explanation for Arsenal’s injury list 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 and FA Cup so often 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 – and that is before we note that although at this moment Arsenal’s injury list is high, it is not the highest, and is very close to several other clubs.

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.

Thus 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 in not protecting Arsenal players is to blame for Arsenal being at the upper ends 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.

Quite why the Telegraph and their chums don’t adopt the scientific approach I don’t know, although I think there is a strong anti-science bias building up in British society.  But if they did allow science and evidence-based research back in, 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:

Verheijeen has been very outspoken over the fitness methods not just of Arsenal, but of Chelsea, Tottenham, Man City, Feyenoord, Manchester United, and others.  He has claimed that a number of managers are “dinosaurs” including David Moyes and Roy Hodgson, and has often said that some players have been “overtrained”.   He also claimed, two days after the funeral, that it was the wish of the late Wales team manager Gary Speed that he (Verheijen) be appointed manager of Wales.   He then condemned the FA of Wales saying they had “destroyed the legacy” of Gary Speed.

What Untold would say of Verheijen is, “here is an expert, but he seems to blame a lot of other people for faulty tactics – but this alone can’t explain the differentiation in the levels of injury – because if he was right, the teams that followed his generalised methods would get fewer injuries.  And those that he criticise, would have higher levels of injury.  But the evidence doesn’t concur.”

In the end the difference between Untold and the press is that the mediaeval explanation of events (“we have had a bad harvest, we have displeased God, let’s kill more witches” – which is akin to “we have more injuries – it must be Wenger’s fault, let’s get rid of Wenger”) is rejected on this web site.   We try and look for all sorts of explanations, and then try and weigh them up based on the evidence and the application of logic.

It is just our way of looking at the world


33 Replies to “The desperation of the journalists who try to blame Mr Wenger for the injuries”

  1. The injuries that are long term with in Arsenal are most of the time caused by rash tackles and unpunished challenges.

    Welbeck – caused by very late lunging tackle by Emre Can.

    Wilshere last season – caused by a leg breaking tackle by paddy mcnair

    Debuchy – push by arnautovic in to the electronic boards

    Giroud – collision with sylvain distin last season

    Ozil – getting fouled time after time against Chelsea last season.

  2. Maureentheho complains gets one match ban Wenger gets 3 match ban for kicking a bottle

    Kane scores one goal he is back Giroud misses one he is not fit to wear the shirt

    Its the Wenger is French we are English crap again every little mistake is magnified 100 times it surely is pissing me off!

    Ex arsenal players getting on the bashwagon aaaah!!!!

  3. Raymond Verheijen…For such a ‘renowned’ and ‘reputable’ football coach, I would like to know just which teams have hired him to be their manager…

  4. When RVP was still at Arsenal, Verheijen had a first hand account of Arsenal’s training methods and his criticism might’ve carried more weight.

    Since RVP’s departure, I’m not sure where he gets his information from, since there aren’t any players in Arsenal squad Verheijen has any contact with professionally.

    Arsene Wenger has implemented some changes and hired new fitness personnel since RVP’s departure as well, which further puts Verheijen’s inside knowledge into question.

    It sure does seem like he’s looking to promote himself and his academy every chance he gets.

    That said, over 41 percent of Arsenal injuries are a result of opponents bad tackles?

    This sounds like a bunch of bs to me.
    Where is this number coming from?
    An official Arsenal channel, or is it based on Walter’s half baked analysis from a year ago , when every other ( at least) injury ” could have been a result of a contact”, according to a family member who was a veterinarian, if my memory serves.

    This season alone Arsenal have had over a dozen of injuries, and not a single one was attributed to opponents tackle.
    This surely puts that 41 % on shaky grounds.

  5. C’mon Tom…whether you support Wenger or not, it seems pretty obvious to most observers, even neutrals that Arsenal get the shit kicked out of them more often than other clubs. They dress it up by saying that Arsenal don’t like it up them but we all know this is code for kick ’em when they’re up, kick ’em when they’re down and while you’re at it give ’em one more for the lads at the pub.

    You can dispute the exact numbers but critics like Verheijeen almost assuredly don’t have statistics to back up their claims and likely have done much less statistically analysis than the folks on this site.

  6. You know you are (and doing) something good if the rest of the world is against you without a valid reason. Being a descendant of slaves, this is the mantra i learnt early in my life.

  7. The Argument

    Three Tibetan monks are meditating in a cave. After God Knows how long, one of them opens his eyes.
    “It’s raining out there,” he says, and he closes his eyes and goes back to his meditation.
    A year passes. A second monk opens his eyes. “It’s a beautiful, sunny day!” he says, and returns to his closed-eye meditation.
    Another year passes. The third monk opens his eyes. “If you two can’t stop arguing,” he says, “I’m going to find another cave.”

  8. Tom
    I also can’t see where the 41% comes from. It could be that he is including all of our currently injured players ( from last season and this pre season) into the total.
    We have had only one contact injury this season…Coquelin against Chelsea and he only missed one game. All other injuries were muscular or strains, so there appears to be an underlying fitness issue when the same players are continuously injured in this way.

  9. The 41% will probably come from the analysis that we have done about injuries somewhere last season. An analysis that was done over a period of 10 seasons and that included another 10 clubs from the PL to compare our numbers and the numbers from Arsenal. I will try to find the articles and link to them

  10. this is the link to the last article in the series.

    You can find links to the earlier articles in this last article.

    Some numbers 838 injuries in total. 490 of them can be labelled as non contact injuries that is 58,47%
    348 can be labelled as contact injuries and that is 41,52%

    the division on contact and non contact can be found in the 11 articles before that.

  11. So what are the percentages for this season?
    One player injured by contact for just one match.
    It’s about time somebody remarked on the protection our players appear to be getting.

  12. We note that yet again those who attempt and fail to query the referee review statistics complied over many years by Untold (which provide a reference the number of hacks and unpunished hacks) are simply incapable or unwilling to put up any numbers.

    We know why that is.

    As for the unemployed physio quick to give a soundbite. I’m sure he has some credentials but we protected that he is:

    A) unemployed

    B) he is apparently not even working as a succesful freelancer with active players at this moment such as the physio who left AFC last season after being given hugs by Walcott and Wilshere in the same game! Freelancing physios are very common! A bedrock of the industry.

    C) he appears to incapable of critique of a Special Agent. Please refer to what happened to Falcao after he suffered a similar injury to Walcott, at the same time. Quit a contrast afterwards. We can see there how competent or not the AFC physio teams are, not forgetting the player’s judgment, and the results speak for themselves.

    There are hundreds of millions of reasons why the unemployed rent-a-quote physio would never speak out against the/a special agent.

  13. Dear reader,

    Please bear in mind that a recent article referred to heading in football as being dangerous. Even with lighter balls. This is not new news. The British medical council discuss banning heading back in the fifties. That is one reason why footballers wages went up so much at that time, lots of punch drunk ex-players needed the money.

    What is one to make of a certified or qualified physiotherapist who is happy to work, when they can, in football but brands many managers and the way things are done in football or in any professional sport as ‘prehistoric’?

    It’s very strange behaviour.

  14. A little bit of analysis will also tell the media that Newcastle have had an exceptionally high number of injuries for some inexplicable reason. However, let’s look at the the list and take into account another factor with which we’re all familiar.

    Newcastle 12 129
    Arsenal 8 136
    Bournemouth 7 129
    Liverpool 7 115
    Tottenham Hotspur 7 106

    The average number of fouls against is 121. So the three teams with the most injuries are all fouled more than average. Now if we look at the six teams who have had their players fouled the least this season……..well blow me down they have less than the average number of players out injured.

    Now this is none to scientific but it makes a point. It’s just a shame I’m not a football “journalist”, I might have the time to do some proper research…….but then that might actually disprove the biased argument that the media want to portray!

  15. Explanation.

    The first number in the table is number of players out injured. The second is the number of fouls against each club so far this season.

  16. Serge

    Cocuelin went into an aerial challenge and landed badly, hyperextending his knee. There was no contact to speak of from a Chelsea player on the play.

    I repeat:

    No Arsenal player has been injured due to opponents bad tackle this season yet.

  17. Goonermikey

    Your heart is in the right place, but I don’t think the numbers are saying what you think they are.

    The number of fouls per team number you have to work with, is the number “estimated” by the referees, not the actual number of fouls per game. Also, those fouls can include things like deliberate handball, which isn’t likely to cause someone to be injured.

    Next, you really do need to calculate the variance for the average number of fouls per team.

    If it turned out we were counting fouls and not estimating them, an initial guess for the number of fouls is that it is a Poisson process, where the variance equals the mean (average). Which would mean an estimated standard deviation of 11 (sqrt 121).

    All numbers of fouls observed that are within a small multiple of the standard deviation of the mean, are not statistically different from the mean. And usually that small multiplier is bigger than 1 and smaller than 3. Even if the multiplier was 1, that would mean fouls between 110 and 132 per team are all statistically the same.

    But, it gets worse. The number of players out injured may be in error. There may be players who should be injured, but aren’t out. There also be players who are out, but are no longer injured. Hence, both numbers are somewhat fuzzy.

    Really, what you probably want to do is compare pairs of numbers across all the teams with a T test.

    All of which points to why the whorenalists don’t do this, it is a bit of work.

    I suspect that most of the data falls in the statistically similar category. But, I have other fish to fry. I do appreciate your effort, and my expectation would be what you are hoping for, that Arsenal sees more injuries because they are fouled more.

  18. Tom

    Thanks for that. I’ll alter my injuries stats to reflect this.
    Not one contact injury, but does it get mentioned. Not ever.
    We need some balanced reporting here please.

  19. GoingGoingGooner

    I do support Arsene Wenger and that’s why I’m on here and not LeGrove, for example.

    The problem is, however, that any criticism of him, no matter wether based in fact or not, is being received on here as trying to undermined him and to get rid of him.

    The fact is, nobody really knows what makes Arsenal top or near top of injury table every season, but we do see certain things and decisions from Arsene Wenger that make, or at least should make one wonder.


    Has anyone ever seen a stretching routine ,the likes Ox did before the SW game, being done seconds before kick off?

    I haven’t.

    Surely there must’ve been some sort of concern with his fitness before the game. Why start him then?

    Why was Walcott brought on without a proper warm up into a meaningless game?

    If you don’t have it in you to wonder or ask yourself these questions, then you are devoid of any critical thinking, whether you support Arsene Wenger or not.

  20. I wonder how many muscular injuries come from constant kicking at the muscles…. ?

  21. Tom.

    Good point.

    However, before games you see how much fitness and warm up work is done with the players, including stretching etc. It is a good 15 minutes or so. This is all taken care of by the fitness coaches, not Wenger.

    I agree with you about Theo. I will give Theo the benefit of a doubt because he was not expecting to go on 5 minutes into the game. However, it was a cold night and I woud have expected him to have warmed up to some degree before going onto the pitch. I played at the lower semi-pro level and all players know that if you dont warm up or stretch, there is a likelyhood you will have a muscle injury. So I tend to blame the player. Are they really putting in what they should during the warm up?

    I don’t like these kind of muscle injuries because they really are avoidable. As I say, perhaps going on the pitch so quickly caught him unawares. But it ought not is my point.

  22. Nope. No numbers.

    Last season we had Debuchy (twice), Giroud, Wilshere etc. etc. etc.
    bear in mind that none of these hacks were even called as fouls.
    This is the record. For last season alone. Going back further, the numbers are there.

    No wonder the disingenious one(s) are focusing their comments upon the last three months. Bless them for trying, but that is a seriously weak and lame effort. Embarrassing.

  23. Chris Coleman:

    A fine job guiding Wales to the Euro’s.
    Bale left out of the pointless and insane internationals that are only scheduled to appease FUFA parasites and broadcasters. Still recovering from injury picked up against Andorra.

    He sounds like a manager who knew it was a mistake to play his two superstars in a dead rubber against Andorra.

    Has anyone seen or heard any comments our there from the rent-a quote unemployed physio and his absurd hangers on (please see above) about the absurd schedule imposed on the athletes by the administrators and broadcasters? Which is just the same as in other sports in the modern era? No? Well, there’s a surprise! It’s almost as if, you know, that these comments are disingenious. And dishonest.

  24. Ohhhhh look:

    Spurs drop Andros Townsend after row with physio Nathan Gardiner”

    I’m looking forward to the commentry from the petty plundits, the unemployed rent a quote physios and their absurd hangers (please see above) on this one. I could be waiting a while, but surely it’s only a matter of time before we see articles blaming the “prehistoric” Tottenham physios for destroying England’s chances at the next tournament, because we all knew that Andy “goal kick” Townsend was the next Bale

  25. Safe to say the physios getting hugs from their players in a deliberate and public gesture of gratitude for those behind the scenes, and not arguing with them, they have been doing a decent job?

    What kind of absurdist would even attempt to argue otherwise?

  26. Thanks for the multiple dislikes “serge”

    Not the numbers we were asking for but I suppose that is the best that you have to offer.

  27. Just as there is last 5 minutes punditism, there is also last 3 months injury recordism… 😉

    In the study we did we covered a period of 10 years. Even including the years with Viera and other “strong athletic” players..

  28. The desperation of the journalists who try to blame Mr Wenger for the injuries…

    …And those who follow in their tragic wake.

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