The Koscielny dilemma: play him or keep him out of the international week?

By Tony Attwood

As we all know Laurent Koscielny could have played against Bayern but was left on the bench.  It is a fairly obvious conclusion given that if he was on the bench he could have played.    That’s that, nice and simple, although it didn’t stop the inevitable “Koscielny could have played against Bayern” headline or four, a day or two later as if it were a revelation.

But if Koscielny doesn’t play against Tottenham either, then he can be legitimately said to be injured and so not go and play against Germany and England in the interlull.

Of course none of us really knows what is wrong with him, and it may be that there is a chance that he really is injured quite seriously or has had a relapse in which case he won’t play anyway.  But if fit, it is an interesting dilemma.

We do have a new centre half in waiting, and a replacement on the pitch, who could be used if we put Gabriel and Mert in the team: Chambers and Monreal could both be seen as the reserve player – if Monreal moved then Gibbs would play at full back.

Overall we have eight players injured:

Koscielny, Bellerin, Walcott, the Ox, Ramsey, Wilshere, Rosicky, Welbeck.

which tells us that Arteta and Ospina are back and might well be on the beach for the Tiny Totts visit.

So the league table of injuries looks like this

1 Newcastle United 12 18
2 Arsenal 8  2
3 Bournemouth 7  17
4 Liverpool 7  8
5 Crystal Palace 6  10
6 Everton 6  9
7 Sunderland 6 18
8 Tottenham Hotspur 6  5
9 Manchester United 5  4
10 Southampton 5  7
11 Stoke City 5  14
12 Manchester City 4  1
13 West Ham United 4  6
14 Aston Villa 3 20
15 Chelsea 3  15
16 Norwich City 3  16
17 Watford 3 11
18 Leicester City 2  3
19 West Bromwich Albion 2 12
20 Swansea City 0  13

So, as with all these links that are assumed (the link between league position and money spent this summer, money spent in the last five year, injuries), there is no link in real life.

Premier Injuries shows that Arsenal’s total number of injuries has been above the Premier League average in 11 out of the last 12 seasons.  But “above average” doesn’t mean too much.  Just top 50% obviously.  Indeed we might expect it, given that we play a fast moving type of football that “invites” clogging defenders who lack to skill to take the ball from them to bring players down, and we know from our referee stats that referees have for the last five years been reluctant to penalise players of other teams for this type of foul against Arsenal.

But the “expected back” make more pleasant reading now…

  • Ramsey: 21 Nov
  • Bellerin: 21 Nov
  • The Ox: 21 Nov
  • Theo: 29 Nov
  • Jack: 13 Dec
  • Rosicky: 2 Jan
  • Welbeck: 12 Jan

Some of the media has moved on to “a shortage of reserves” and yes it is true Arsenal only used 22 of the 25 slots available this year for players, but partly that is because we use several under 21s who don’t need to be listed.

But still, why didn’t we fill in the 25?

Because you can’t buy players of the highest quality and then say, “you might not get a game this year”.  It is that simple.

There is a further bonus in this situation.   Interlulls are the all-time injury horror story, and can cripple teams.   Remember Wenger’s jibe: it is like giving your perfect car to a second hand car dealer who drives it all over the place, brings it back broken and then tells you to fix it so he can do it again next time.

Best of all let’s not have injuries, but if we must, let’s have them so that some of the recovery time is in the interlull.  No matches that week, and no chance of an interlull injury.

The press of course always have lots of rent-a-quote ex-players on their books who like to be back in the spotlight.    The routine goes like this:

Journalist: “Hello Emmanuel.  I see you are getting a bit of TV work in England.”

Mr Petit: “Yes, not as much as I like, but I have some in France as well, so its not too bad.”

“And you do a bit for the Homeless World Cup.”

“That feels a good thing to do, and I’m pleased to be doing it.”

“But you really want some more TV work?”

“Yes, do you have something in mind?”

“I can’t do it Emmanuel, but if you can give me a usable quote it will keep your name in people’s minds.  Something a little controversial and you know how it goes – the TV boys will see it, and get you on knowing you will say something to get the viewers jumping.”

“I don’t know…”

“Well, what do you say about Arsenal’s injury crisis?”

“Oh its not that bad, just a load of hype.  Not a crisis.”

“Now that’s not going to get you on TV is it Manu?  Try again.  A bit more controversial…”

“OK.   How about, ‘To be honest, I’m getting very annoyed. Injuries cost them many things every year’.”

“Perfect. See you.”

“But hang on what about…”

The line is dead.

Of course I made that up, but from my years in writing, I can tell you it is what happens, from the journalist point of view.

We have had interlull managers trying to fight back of course, but normally they make such a balls up of it that it becomes laughable.  Remember when the Welsh second hand car dealer Chris Coleman had a go at Arsenal, after he played Ramsey in a useless, pathetic and pointless game against the might of Andorra and Mr Wenger dared to question him. “If Wenger has a problem with me or my selection, I’ll gladly drive to Arsenal’s training ground,” he said. “Our job is hard enough as managers without us having a chip at each other, especially a cheap shot which is exactly what it was.”

A second hand car dealer if ever I saw one.  All the press ran it, and of course sided with Coleman.

But back to our injuries.

Tomas Rosicky has had a boost in that he has been cleared to resume running work next week.

So are we down to the bare bones?  Here’s the squad with the injured players having a *

  • David Ospina
  • Petr Cech
  • Mathieu Debuchy
  • Kieran Gibbs
  • Per Mertesacker
  • Gabriel
  • Laurent Koscielny ?
  • Nacho Monreal
  • Calum Chambers
  • Hector Bellerin *
  • Tomas Rosicky *
  • Mikel Arteta
  • Jack Wilshere *
  • Mesut Ozil
  • Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain *
  • Aaron Ramsey *
  • Santi Cazorla
  • Mathieu Flamini
  • Francis Coquelin
  • Olivier Giroud
  • Theo Walcott *
  • Alexis
  • Danny Welbeck *
  • Joel Campbell

On loan but able to be recalled

  • Wojciech Szczesny
  • Carl Jenkins
  • Yaya Sanogo
  • Serge Gnabry
  • Ainsley Maitland-Niles
  • Isaac Hayden
  • Chuba Akpom
  • Emiliano Martinez
  • Jon Toral
  • Wellington Silva
  • Gedion Zelalem

And I haven’t included the players who we know about like Alex Iwobi, Chris Willock, Jeff Adelaide etc who are still listed by as being Academy players.

Of course the number of these players who return from loan or step up when needed is small, but we can still remember Bellerin and Coquelin in the depths of our “crisis” last year.

The anniversaries…

7 November 1896: Notts C 7 Arsenal 4.  Only 3000 witnessed Arsenals biggest league aggregate game thus far.  In fact this game was part of an amazing 11 league game sequence in which 76 goals were scored – fractionally under 7 per game.  The run included the 0-8 defeat to Loughboro and two games in which Arsenal scored six.

7 November 1925: Final first team game for John (Jock) Robson against Man City – the shortest ever Arsenal keeper at 5 feet 8 inches.  He played 101 times for Arsenal, including 9 games in Chapman’s first season in 1925/6.

Other tales

17 Replies to “The Koscielny dilemma: play him or keep him out of the international week?”

  1. I have Kos down as possibly our best player, of an amazing bunch. I would play him, we look so much more solid when he is there, and his pace is useful to say the least. I would play him if possible, even if we didn’t, no guarantee the French wouldnt come calling, they might even find something to blackmail him with to get him to play for les Bleus.
    But some look like they will need a rest before Xmas.
    As for injuries, we can cope with the number, but it happens so often with key players, but then again , I guess it would, they play ….and get kicked the most.

  2. Many fans including some of our own are extremely envious of Chelsea, some would have their players , owner and manager at Arsenal in a heartbeat.
    The only thing Chelsea have that I would want at this club is their consistently low injury rate, they hardly ever seem to have more than three or at most, four injuries, unless this is a perception.i would imaging there is a queue to sign their ex doctor when legalities are sorted out

  3. What a dilemma for Arsene. If he keeps Kos out of the derby tomorrow, he can withhold his appearances for France and so protect him from pointless further injury.
    If he plays against Spurs, presumably he will be released for the internationals.
    As for Kos himself, one can assume he will want to play for his homeland.
    Who would be a football manager! 😉

  4. I do think the anomaly’s in injury rate could well be how the clubs report it I’m pretty certain if Chelsea or City have a minor injury such as a wound or stubbed toe, they do not report it as an injury merely not selecting said player for a fortnight, an example recently, Per was off for three weeks with a chest infection, the chest infection would not have lasted so long but the drugs/antibiotics used would have been in his system preventing him from playing (passing dope test), With many other clubs no report would have been made he would have just been off,maybe marked ‘not available’.
    Arsenals openness regarding injuries has and is used by our enemy’s against us!!

  5. Mandy,
    I agree fully it would seem to be a sensible addition and a further example of our class.

  6. Good read Tony,

    The data on the injuries list gives these plundits the much needed (by them) excuse to bring out the banners (Arsenal injury crisis).

    What they forget is the relativity of the injuries as a number per club and the two factors of seriousness of injury and depth of the squads.

    Top of that list, in my opinion, would be Bornmouth. They have 3 serious knee injuries, two of the players are new signings (brought in obviously to make the difference for them in PL), and the depth of their squad is not exactly overflowing with quality.

    Our injury list is worrying given our schedule of games coming up…but the squad has quality – they have to get out there and prove that they should be starters and not squad players. Only then will the boss have a real problem. 😉

  7. Geez I wonder what our injury list would have been like – had we had a reasonable (at least) amount of protection by the PIGMOB??!!

  8. apo, I think it has to be recognised that Arsenal has always been known for injuries – there is an article on the Arsenal History Site taken from the programme of a match in 1920 when the chairman is complaining that there has never been an injury crisis like this one. The goalkeeper played as a full back in the game – he was too injured to play in goal, but they still had to use him.

    Much I think is perception – as has been said, a slight knock and the Arsenal player is injured, whereas the same knock might not result in a player in another team getting into the list of injuries.

  9. Whoever Wenger puts out against the spuds will be sufficient to beat them. The key criteria is the PGMO add on to Mauricio Potatinos squad. We gooners at the Ems will have to make the difference. I have no worries about our team.

    I hope the spuds are kept back after the game as long as our fans were at theirs.

    There will be many football people around the world watching, so I hope PGMO are forced to behave.

  10. Many Dodd,

    Not having a pop at you buy wasn’t Shad Forsythe going to be the solution to our injury crises? I recall that you were one of the proponents of the idea when he just joined us. Shad was also getting a lot of premature praise when our injury number was low. It is interesting that no one is mentioning his name now. Kinda like Steve Bould getting praised for our defence when all is well and Wenger being the one holding him back when they are not.

    I think injury issues in football are a little more complicated than you are making them. A certain Diego Costa plays for Chelsea you know.

  11. I hope so too Menace, but this game worries me a little. There are a lot of people who would love us to lose that game, not least some of the more warped members of our fanbase. Lose that and the media can repeat their North London balance of power shift mantra, lose that and the media and pundits can lay into Wenger and certain players.
    I think there are sufficient agendas against the team and manager to be concerned, especially with a ref not known for giving us a level playing field.
    Ideally, blitz them like we did against Utd to nullify any PGMOL agendas there may or not be.
    For what it’s worth, I also think we will win, but we have some tired legs, rusty players and with Mr Atkinson, some players may have to be careful.

  12. Bootoomee you are correct – there was an initial hope expressed that changes in the support personnel were going to reduce our injuries.

    What surprised me was that an article, by Tim, appeared on Untold semi concluding that the changes were having a major effect – but written too early in the season for such a conclusion to be fully evidence based.

    Recently our injuries have accumulated rather dramatically, reducing our attacking options and planned rotation – whatever the cause we need the injury incidence to be massively reduced – and fast.

  13. Bootoomee, think Shad and others will certainly help the situation, I do not know but would guess he comes highly recommended by our German contingent. Then, there are other staff being bought in on the fitness front. And, our fitness facilities are being revamped, this is all being done for a reason. Will it stop injury spikes like we are seeing, clearly not, but I am sure these measures will all help over time, or else the club wouldn’t be engaging in them.
    But yes, injury issues are clearly complex as you say, I agree with the majority on here that the kicking the players take and the lack of protection, the attitude that Arsenal don’t like it up em certainly plays a huge part….that much is beyond obvious.
    And, as the man himself said this week, we have some very injury prone players. But I still think Shad , his colleagues and revamping things is a wise move.
    And yes, Chelsea have some very dirty players to go with a manager who …..well….cheats..who, until recently at least, got away with rather a lot. And of course the aggressor is likely to be injured than his victims.

  14. On loan but able to be recalled

    Wojciech Szczesny
    Carl Jenkins
    Yaya Sanogo
    Serge Gnabry
    Ainsley Maitland-Niles
    Isaac Hayden
    Chuba Akpom
    Emiliano Martinez
    Jon Toral
    Wellington Silva
    Gedion Zelalem

    That’s in their loan contracts ?

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