by Dr Billy “the Dog” McGraw. University College Hospital of the North Circular Road.
Arsenal have appointed Mikhail Zhilkin as a data scientist working under the direction of the director of high performance Darren Burgess. Allegedly his remit will include analyzing injury data.
And as the newspapers get around to covering the story so we are getting comments such as “Injuries were a significant problem for Arsenal across a series of seasons in the second decade of Arsene Wenger’s reign as manager and an issue that was the subject of several internal reviews.”
That is in the Telegraph, and my suspicions were raised at once by the fact that the phrase “injuries were a significant problem for Arsenal” in the article by J Wilson had a link on it, which took us to an article that had nothing at all to do with injuries but was by J Wilson. It is a clever psychological ploy often used by fake news sites which aims at making passing readers believe there is more evidence available and that the site is providing it. Figures show that 95% of readers don’t click on such links but instead stay with the main article, but most take away the impression that the claims in the article are being backed up by facts.
The Telegraph continues, “It all also follows a huge overhaul in the club’s medical staff under Burgess,” and they list the people who have moved on setting it all up nicely for a reminiscence about Arsenal’s alleged appalling injury history in the past.
Now the Telegraph has long term been one of the “outlets” propagating the view that Arsenal get more injuries than anyone else. But of course they are not the only one. Last year the Independent said that Arsenal suffered more injuries than any other Premier League team in 2016/17. The report went on to quote Talk Sport and “Dutch fitness coach Raymond Verheijen” and suggests “The numbers could raise more questions about the training methods employed by the north London club.” We did a detailed analysis to show how wrong they were, just on a year ago.
As we said when we covered that article, even a quick cursory look at the statistics provided shows that the whole story is a fake – yet another fake to add to the stories about transfers, Mr Wenger’s tactics, training methods etc etc.
The list of so-called Arsenal injuries for 2015/16 included Carl Jenkinson being out for 37 weeks, when in fact he was on loan to West Ham. Yes of course we might say that Jenkinson was still an Arsenal player, but he was playing for WHU, being trained by WHU and being paid by WHU so it could hardly be Arsenal’s training methods that got him laid low.
Besides which Jenkinson suffered his knee injury on 23 January 2016, after playing 20 games for WHU, which means that even if in some odd way he was to be quoted as an Arsenal player for the season he was out for 15 weeks of the season, not 37.
Looking further I then discovered that Danny Welbeck was listed as being out for 56 weeks in the 2015/16 season. Which is quite interesting given that last time I looked a year had 52 weeks, and a season around 40 weeks.
In fact Danny returned on 14 February 2016 in a 2–1 win over Leicester – I remember it rather clearly since I was there and had a perfect view of his goal. By my reckoning they have added 28 weeks to Danny’s missing time – and this is before we get into a debate about the difference between being out injured and being match fit.
As you may recall Walter did an in depth study of Arsenal injuries in 2014, which I am pleased to say people still quote as a key source in the debate – or at least people who don’t set up the debate as a way of knocking Mr Wenger and Arsenal, quote it.
As I say, the Telegraph regularly come back to this story – they did it for example with a piece on 22 December 2014 by Jeremy Wilson… and oh, look, it is Jeremy Wilson who has written this week’s piece. He seems to have an interest in knocking Arsenal with invented stats on injuries.
In 2014 he wrote about research into injuries and had the decency to admit that clubs don’t reveal all the details about an injury. That’s true, and that’s why we use the physioroom list of who is actually out injured as declared by the club for our analysis. Anyway the Telegraph still claim that their analysis “is certainly the most comprehensive available analysis. And these stats, “exclusively prepared for the Telegraph, clearly demonstrate that Arsenal do experience an unusually high number of injuries.”
One of the problems is that they don’t give us details of the figures, nor do they take into account Arsenal’s practice of standing by their players. Take Diaby or Rosicky; most sites that “analyse” injury time off just count up the injury of those players – as they do with Santi Cazorla without noting that Diaby and Rosicky were kept on the books when their contracts ended, while many other clubs would have simply released them. It is something that gives Arsenal its positive name among players – the club cares and players note that.
As for Santi, the numbers I have seen in several sites have included Santi even for the period of time when he was not included in our 25 players list.
But of course much of this still emanates from Arsenal’s 1985 Player of the Year, Stewart Robson. He was with Arsenal for nine years, and you may wonder why Robson is still so bitter and twisted about Arsenal after all this time that he will even accept opportunities to go onto Talk Sprout to talk, well, sprouts.
The fact is Robson the player had continuous problems with groin and hamstring injuries. And I rather think he blamed the club for them. I don’t know of course, I can’t read his mind, but I rather suspect that he holds Arsenal guilty for the injuries and that is the source of his problems. Interestingly it was George Graham who decided that after Robson only played five games in 1986/7 the club needed a more reliable man in that position. They bought in Steve Williams.
Interetingly the Robson injuries were not Arsenal’s fault because after he went to West Ham in 1987 the injuries got worse. John Lyall the manager said that he was rarely fully fit when playing for WHU.
In the end the club made him player of the year in 1988, and they were then promptly relegated. He then went to Coventry where he got a bad knee injury – this time playing against Arsenal. He missed the whole of the 1994/5 season with injury.
And so, I think (but it is just my opinion, like I say, my telepathic skills are not that good) he blames Arsenal (who are currently sitting 14th in the injury league according to Physioroom. While clubs like Brighton, WHU and Huddersfield have six injuries we have one) for the end of what he thought might be a great career. I can’t read his personality, but what he says reads and sounds to me like the words of a bitter and twisted man who can’t find another job. He did try management in 2003 with Southend United. He lasted three games.
So will Mr Zhilkin really be analysing injries? I suspect that might be an exaggeration, since his cv says he is a “data scientist interested in rational thinking, automation, data visualisation, machine learning, association football”. But he will be analyzing something, and that’s always good.
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