Exactly how fit is Theo? And why is Koscielny so skinny?

By Phil Gregory

In my match preview for the Blackpool game, I touched upon how Theo looked to have filled out quite a bit and how it’d benefit his game. Now, I didn’t anticipate him quite having the impact that he did, but the results are looking to be extraordinary.

He looked to have a new confidence, and this will certainly be partly due to what looks like a fairly extensive gym workout he’s been on over the summer. Working out has been linked to higher levels of testosterone, which will make him both more aggressive and more competitive, while he’ll feel better in himself and will go out with more belief too. We certainly saw this in his game on Saturday.

Most fans disregarded someone like Koscielny as too skinny after they’ve seen them on the pitch, but such a view doesn’t tell the whole story. All you can really tell is the size of their arms and chest, which is almost totally irrelevant to football (how often do you use your arms in a football game?).

You could argue shoulders are important, but for me the most important muscle group for football is without a doubt the core. I was unsurprised to see in the photos of Arsenal training that the players were doing what looked like Russian Twists, an exercise using a medicine ball that works the obliques, the muscles on the side of your midriff. That’s an absolutely textbook core stability exercise, and exactly what you’d want a football player to be doing.

It doesn’t matter how big a player is if it is the wrong muscles which are big. The best example I can think to illustrate this is at my place of work. I’m a nightclub barman during the university holidays, and on Saturday night we had in some carbon dioxide cylinders for smoke effects or some such.

These cylinders were heavy, made of iron/steel and about two metres tall so I’d guess they weighed around 100-150kgs, and they needed taking up two flights of stairs! A few of the doormen offered to lend a hand, but after doing a couple of the cylinders two of them had knackered their backs carrying the bottom of them which means you’re bearing much of the burden.

I offered to help which they found hilarious, as most of these men are twice or three times my size easily. And yet I could do carry as much as they could, despite them looking significantly stronger. How come? Because they’d been doing a poor workout, which didn’t cover a lot of the major muscle groups in the back and legs. Applying this to football, a much skinnier player wouldn’t have a problem holding off a bigger, stronger player as long as they’d done sufficient work on their core and shoulders.

Back to Theo, and I don’t think it’s possible to overstate just how much an impact his shoulder injuries have had on his game. As someone who’s been nursing a couple of shoulder injuries over the last six months, I can testify to how much it affected my game when I played. You’re constantly aware of the weakness in the joint, which means you won’t jostle for the ball as much and you won’t be as competitive in 50:50s. There’s certainly a psychological element too: you want to go into the game capable of performing to the best of your ability, and you can’t do that with a nagging fitness doubt at the back of your mind.

I was with a top-drawer physio this morning, and when I described my injury the first thing he asked was “have you ever dislocated it?” I hadn’t, which meant rehabilitating the injury would be a quicker and simpler.  My injury wasn’t too severe in the grand scheme of things,  but I’ll still be out of football for a good month at least.. If we look at Theo’s case, the severity of any shoulder injury he had has multiplied significantly because of the fact he’d dislocated it too, as my physiotherapist emphasised. It’s more than likely he had some intrinsic weakness in his joint that required surgery to correct too. All that together, he was out for months at a time, which puts him back to square one in terms of match fitness.

In all, from my own experiences I’m totally unsurprised that we’re only seeing the best of Theo now. Many fans understate the importance of a good pre-season, but conditioning and the like is so, so important in reducing the occurrence of injury later in the season hence why Cesc and Robin have been used sparingly. I do worry about Denilson from a fitness point of view, his regular back and abdominal injuries don’t bode well, and he hasn’t had a pre-season at all.

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20 Replies to “Exactly how fit is Theo? And why is Koscielny so skinny?”

  1. Stop showing off. I was moving some gas cylinders yesterday – those things are HEAVY!
    I agree koscielny being skinny doesnt make him weak, but having a bit of mass can make a huge difference, especially in aerial challenges. He did look good against liverpool, though. It’l be interesting to see him up against kevin davies or the dreaded drogba however. Imo he will rise to those challenges, but he has to prove himself.
    “unsurprised that we’re only seeing the best of Theo now” – please wait until he does this consistently. Hes done it once this season against blackpool. If he uses this to catalyse a string of excellent performances: Fantastic! – but it’s never happened before. He has put in a few great performances before as everyone knows, but his form overall has been awful for arsenal.

  2. Interesting angle on Theo and the testosterone thing. Never really thought about that.

    Whether working out is the reason or not, it’s great to see him taking direct free kicks and having cracks at goal from the edge of the box, as he did at Anfield. That kind of confidence will help the players around him as well.

  3. What really surprise me is the free kicks that theo has been taking in the past two games. He sure worked hard on that part of his game.

    MustafaB, is that really YOU?

  4. I agree with you on the preseason games, I haven’t seen anything truly magical from RVP and Cesc this first two games not that I’m complaining though. Remember when Cesc came on against Aston Villa and within 25 minutes changed the drift of the game, now that’s what I’m talking about 🙂

  5. Should we sign Schillaci and a GK, then I think we can win the PL. With Theo, please wait a few seasons, he will be really good.

  6. I think what people dont realise, is that last season, if we had played Blackpool or some team similar, Theo would not have did what he did. Its a massive improvement. Im happy for him. Hope he can be consistent. Its exactly what Arsenal need this season.

  7. Ayoz, I did mean to mention that in the article but forgot. He’s said he’sbeen staying after training and working on them, adding another string to his bow so to speak. With us lacking any really exceptional set piece takers, it’s great for both him and Arsenal.

    But I certainly think that his summer’s fitness work has allowed him to really showcase what he can do. As long as his shoulder injuries are behind him, he’ll do very well this season.

  8. Theo took a couple of free kicks in pre-season as well and he was not far off. So i’m guessing this is something he has worked on and Wenger has seen a big improvement as he is confident enough to give him that duty, while Cesc has been out. Walcott has also said he now stays behind after training to practise the things that he knows he needs to work on. I really like that as it shows his desire and determination.

    Bring on Blackburn.

  9. Very intresting article Phil. I remember heaving read somewhere that the problem with the shoulder was a somewhat family related problem for Theo. And as he has had his 2 shoulders fixed in the last 3 years they should be much better now. I know someone who’s shoulder popped out anytime and after his operation the doctors said that when they fix the joints this means they normally shouldn’t be able to get dislocated anymore.

    And yes now it seems that Theo has done extra work in the gym and also after the training at Arsenal and he looks different. And the fact that if you play with some fear for an injury in the back of your mind is enoug to bring your performance level down with a very high percentage. Just ask Eduardo. And I can testifie for this myself as after my broken leg I never feel comfortable on the field again.

    And yes Theo will have his games where he will be invisible. Just like any other player does at times.

  10. Yeah, I hope people give Theo the right to still have the occassional bad game. He is still only 21. I agree with what you are saying though, people may say “oh, he’s had good games before” but I disagree, Theo has NEVER had a game like that for Arsenal before. The biggest compliment you could give Theo after Blackpool was that he looked a complete player.

    He has set a new standard for himself and now it is going to be about playing up to that level. Good luck to him. The more successful he is the more successful Arsenal will be.

  11. Denilson is rubbish,lets get rid of him please we will win plenty more games without him if u watch all the big games he was at fault for 90% of the goals we conceded and obviously the other 10% thanks to our useless flapper of a keeper.I hope we announce Squillaci and Shwarzer together wont that be FANTASTIC?
    anyway gooners cheers for now and expect denilson to lose us some more points as the season goes on.

  12. I suffered between 20-30 dislocations of my left shoulder before finally having surgery about 11 years ago. I was back at work within weeks (against quacks orders) however it took me about 4 years too fully feel comfortable with it. Also other people i know who have had similar surgery had felt the same way. So as far as im concerned young Theo has recovered somewhat quickly.

  13. Theo has bulked up, so has Denilson, by the look of it.

    I would love for Denilson to come back and smash the critics the way Theo has (pace Hansen). Christ, I remember when season ticket holder told me Song was such rubbish, we should have left him at Charlton. Look how that turned out.

    Give them a chance, ffs.

  14. Theo has a genetic problem with his shoulders elongated ligaments or tendons he had surgery to correct it last year and he hasnt been injured since. He also looks to have packed on a bit of muscle but the right way he is stronger without being slower which is something you always have to be careful of when bulking up. Koscielny is skinny but he has shown suprising strength already and core muscles are the most important for strength just look at the boxer Tommy Hearns 6’1″ 147lbs(thats practically malnurished) and one of the strongest fighters I’ve ever seen. Walcott worked with David Beckham over the summer looks like he practised free kicks with him, the most improtant thing Walcott showed aagainst Blackpool was improved decision making not physical strength

  15. The value of pre-season is obvious. Theo was on fire in 2008 after a full pre-season, scored a hatrick in Croatia and promptly went on 18 months of injury after injury.

    Look at Rosicky now. A full pre-season and his passing touch was exquisite and 90 minutes was no problem to him.

    Can’t judge Koscielny until we see whether he can cope with Drogba physically. What has been on show to date looks good…..

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