by Tony Attwood
Suggesting that Arsenal has the most injuries each season of any Premier League squad still happens, but it is on the wane – maybe, just maybe, because we’ve been pointing out how wrong these figures are for years.
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 seems to have gone quiet on that front, and in April this year turned his attention on Liverpool saying, he believed Klopp’s high-energy pressing style will come back to haunt him as the season goes on. “Because of Klopp’s intense training and playing style, it’s very likely the Liverpool players will struggle in the last months of this season,” Verheijen said. With Arsenal he blamed the the “old school” approach of Wenger, We know he was wrong over Wenger. But how has his prediction panned out with Klopp?
Curiously only a couple of papers covered this issue. Yet when he slammed Wenger he got headline coverage every time. Odd that.
Stewart Robson likewise has gone quiet. He can still pop up Wenger bashing on TalkSprout and Danny Baker seems happy to give him free reign with half hour long interviews, never once saying, “hang on, these figures are different from everyone else’s” when he quotes the number of injuries. But even on his home territory he seems to have given up the fight.
So I thought I would do a count, not just of Arsenal injuries but also of other clubs. Then I had second thoughts and felt it best to use other people’s counts. That idea sat on the back burner until yesterday when in the debate about Tottenham’s lack of transfers on this site yesterday (a remarkable civilised debate and it is worth reading the comments if you have a moment and haven’t done so) raised the issue as one commentator said that Tottenham suffered particularly last season.
But as always injury measurement is a problem – as we have seen week after week as we cover them prior to each match. Players we know are injured are not listed. Players who are listed as injured, then play.
So I took three separate lists and decided to compare them. The first two are from Physioroom and give us the total number of injuries that lasted two weeks or more, and then how many injuries all told were found to have occurred in the season.
The third column – the total number of days lost – I couldn’t find from Physioroom so I took what I believe is Physioroom data that appeared in the Daily Star. Not the best source, but I am using that column as a comparison, and it gives interestingly similar results.
To make the comparisons easier the top five in each column are highlighted in bold, and the bottom five are highlighted in red.
So at once we can see that Burnley had a very low number of longer term injuries, the lowest total for all injuries and the second lowest for days lost and they come third in the 14+ days list. Clearly they have hardly been affected.
|Club||Total injuries 14 days+||Pos||Total injuries (all)||Pos||Days lost||Pos|
However before noting other teams, we must remember that these figures do not take into account the nature of the player – only that he is injured. So it is possible to have a very low number of injuries etc, but if those injuries are all in the same position, then you can have a problem. Or to have a high number of injuries but most of them are to squad players.
Imagine a team that has just one key striker like Lukaku at Everton. Take him out and not have a ready replacement, and that one single injury causes problems far beyond what the numbers show.
Likewise one could spend a year trying to find a replacement for Santi Cazorla and not come up with one. As for finding one who was available – well, it could take forever, so his injury is even more keenly felt.
(Also I felt the need for the syndrome where you know all the details of your own club (and thus feel there are lots of injuries), but few of the statistics for other clubs and so make the assumption your club is worse off. “Negative familiarity” is the best I’ve got so far.)
Injuries come for many reasons: pure chance, being rushed back too quickly from the previous injury, deliberate targeting by the opposition, playing the long ball game and hoofing up the pitch (reduces the number of one on one encounters), the unwillingness of referees to punish the opposition… But overall when making predictions about the next season, one can look at the clubs in bold and wonder how they will get on if the randomness of injuries were to fall more seriously on them, than they did last year. Do they have the squad to cope?
The teams that came out of the injury tables very well over all with two or three top five spots are… Burnley, Chelsea, Leicester, Swansea and West Brom. I suspect Chelsea will have sufficient strength in depth to see through anything but the most targeted injury crisis, but for the rest any sort of injury crisis could affect them considerably.
The teams that really need to look at what is causing their problems are Palace, Liverpool, Sunderland Watford and West Ham.
The big warning is for clubs with small squads who are getting few injuries – they are getting away with a spot of luck I think.
Arsenal, as I have been saying for years, are mid-table. The story about Arsenal injuries being the worst was either made up, or as we saw from the last analysis of figures, based on false figures (you may remember Jenkinson being added into the Arsenal figures even though he was loaned to West Ham, and some figures counting more than 52 weeks in a year.)
One final point: clubs with strong humanitarian tendencies who stick with players who are injured rather than just dump them on the scrap heap, are of course punished in these tables. Arsenal’s figures were this season affected by Santi Cazorla. Previously they were affected by Abou Diaby being on the books.
But let me point out a positive on this: the way the club treats injured players is noticed by other players, and everyone knows they are one Shawcross away from being crippled. Diaby did not take up a place on the 25 list during his long spell out injured, in the sense that in those years we didn’t register 25 players for the list, but the club was humane and understanding. Some supporters noticed – and a lot of players noticed.
If you just count number of days lost, then positions can change when a club opts to show its human side, or is simply caught with a player who is long term injured but is also on a long contract, which is why that lost column, which looks like it ought to be the main one to focus on, is perhaps the most misleading.
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