Arsenal back at the top of the injury list. But why?

by Tony Attwood

It might seem a long time ago, but there was a time when every week – often several times a week – when we were told that Arsenal got more injuries than any other team.  Indeed more than that, we were told that Arsenal’s injuries were self-inflicted, caused by the prehistoric training methods of Arsene Wenger.

Indeed way back in August 2010 (yes, coming up to 10 years ago) Dale Higginbottom, who was then our regular correspondent on the issue of injuries wrote an article under the headline “Do Arsenal really get more injuries than anyone else?”

Walter carried on the research and in 2014 published a detailed analysis of injuries through a series of articles.  There is a link to the whole series in the article which shows that Arsenal did indeed get more shoulder injuries than other clubs  – a piece that makes the obvious point that no player gets a shoulder injury just by running around.

That article in April 2014 clearly raised some interest as various newspapers began to take up the story, and particularly noticeable was a major piece in the Telegraph on 22 December of that year with the headline “Revealed: The truth behind Arsenal’s terrible injury record”

Now in general one can be fairly sure that any article in a national newspaper in Britain which starts “Revealed: the truth…” most certainly does not contain the truth.  Nor any revelations.  And this was emphasised by one of the opening sentences which read, “Arsenal led the Premier League for most of last season before their fleeting title challenge was derailed amid the loss of Ramsey, Ozil, Wilshere and Walcott.”

So Arsenal led the league for MOST of last season, but that was a FLEETING title challenge.  Of course it makes no sense, and nor did much of what followed, as I will try and explain.

Their conclusion in that article was that “In the 11 seasons researched from 2003-4 to 2013-14, Arsenal suffered 312 significant injuries which led to the player being out for 10 days or more. That is exactly 100 more than Chelsea, while Arsenal’s total number of injuries was above the Premier League average in 10 out of the 11 campaigns, including each of the last seven completed seasons.”

At the same time as figures such as this were being developed there also appeared on the scene  Raymond Verheijen who was a physio for Wales for a while but seemed to spend more time criticising Arsene Wenger.  He claimed there was a “career-threatening process” at Arsenal that is structural and noted that it was Mr Wenger’s training methods that was the problem along with his lack of willingness to rotate his squad.

But comparisons with other clubs showed that the much lauded Chelsea relied on a smaller core of players than Arsenal and even the Telegraph article admitted that “research by one Premier League club – who have an excellent injury record – has concluded that the “over-playing” theory is largely a myth and that, with the right recovery, physical limits are more often reduced by mentality.”

So that was one main argument against Mr Wenger’s methods knocked out, and no clear alternative was given.  And thus as so often happens in the end it was down to Untold to try and pull all the conflicting claims together, and we quickly saw that Arsenal were fouled more than other clubs, but not that we had more injuries.

Yet the story that Arsenal had more injuries had already been around for several years, for two years earlier (yes really back in 2008) Bleacher report ran “Five reasons why Arsenal always have injury problems”.

It was an interesting article because it used a tactic that others had used before, and which became prominent throughout the subsequent decade.

The piece started “In the last two seasons Arsenal were ravaged by injures, damaging their chances of lifting the Premiership title significantly.

“In season 2007/2008 there was a stunning number of injuries—60 throughout the whole season. Several of which were serious and by that I mean injuries that had sidelined a player for over a month. Arsenal had lost the services of a lot of key players for a big part of the season.

“I could make a list of at least five or six reasons why Arsenal were the team that was most affected by injuries concerning the big four in EPL.”

The tactic, which continues through that article, and virtually every other article through the decade on this subject, was to announce in shocked horror how many injuries Arsenal had, without any mention of how many injuries other clubs had, and the source of the data.

We haven’t quite got back to the daily level of hysteria we used to see on the subject, mostly because journalists have a herd instinct in shock horror stories, uncertain when it comes to deviating from the mainstream choice as to what the current lead shock horror story should be.  But they will be on Arsenal’s case soon, as Physioroom, the source we have consistently used for data on this subject shows the following in terms of the number of injuries.  (Confusingly their table, although labelled as being about injuries actually also includes suspensions, so I have taken those out).

  • Arsenal: 7
  • Everton: 6
  • Aston Villa: 5
  • Bournemouth: 5
  • Burnley: 5
  • Liverpool: 5
  • Manchester C: 5
  • West Ham U: 5
  • Sheffield U: 4
  • Norwich City: 4
  • Tottenham H: 4
  • Chelsea: 3
  • Crystal Palace: 3
  • Leicester City: 3
  • Manchester U: 3
  • Watford 3
  • Brighton and Hove: 2
  • Newcastle United: 2
  • Southampton: 2

Here is the list of Arsenal injuries

Player Reason Further Detail Potential Return
Calum Chambers Knee Injury Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injury – ACL Injury 29/08/2020
Lucas Torreira Di Pascua Ankle/Foot Injury Fibula Fracture 07/07/2020
Cedric Soares Head/Face Injury Broken Nose 04/07/2020
Granit Xhaka Ankle/Foot Injury Ankle Sprain 04/07/2020
Sokratis Papastathopoulos Thigh Injury Quadriceps Strain 04/07/2020
Bernd Leno Knee Injury Knee Injury
Pablo Mari Villar Ankle/Foot Injury Ankle Ligament Injury

So why are Arsenal once again at the top of the injury list?

We know it can’t be Mr Wenger’s crazy training programme as alleged before.  It can’t be the playing tactics from the old days either since we have gone through three managers of late, and they can’t all be doing the same thing.  What else is left?

Certainly we know that several members of Arsenal’s long serving medical team have now left, so it can’t be incompetence there.

But we do know the Premier League has far fewer refs that handle Arsenal games than would be foundd in other major leagues, so clubs get the same referees more often.  PGMO have refused to say why they do this.

We also know that even allowing for the low number of referees Arsenal get the same referee more often than would happen if the referees were rotated evenly between the clubs.  Just as Liverpool keep getting the same referee over and over again.

So one possible explanation is that the referees Arsenal get over and over again are less inclined to punish serious infringements against Arsenal players, and that the managers and players of other clubs have recognised this.

Of course I can’t prove this at the moment, but it is just possible that some new data might be at hand which could help.   Please do stay with us, this could get quite interesting.

13 Replies to “Arsenal back at the top of the injury list. But why?”

  1. I have no doubt that we suffer injuries because referees allow opponents to foul us. They may ignore a foul completely or simply award a free-kick without any further sanction of the person committing the foul, in circumstances when a yellow or even a red card would be justified, and would undoubtedly be shown to an Arsenal player committing such an offence.

    Also, I don’t believe the general mantra that “no player sets out to injure an opponent”, which the media (and the “expert” pundits) are always spouting. There are many examples where that’s exactly what some players try to do – under instructions from some managers. (Pulis the obvious example)

  2. I think everyone knows that you are allowed to kick Arsenal players without any comeback from the referees, including the media (or should I say with the media’s blessing).

  3. Stating the obvious Torreira and Leno’s injuries were avoidable with maybe fairer/stronger refereeing during the games the injuries occurred .
    All the other players injuries in the list are part and parcel of football injuries sprains and strains .
    It was noted in the stats against Brighton our midfield players made 1 clean tackle without making a foul , maybe we’re trying to play the game with no contact because as soon as any contact is made by an Arsenal player a foul is called , nick the ball off their toes or intercept the ball before it reaches its destination , difficult to do .
    Most teams who play against us are given too much leeway by referees so the the tackles and infringements get stronger as the game progresses hence the above two’s injuries .

  4. Diaby, Eduardo, Ramsey, Wilshere, Sagna, and more recently Holding and now Leno are all the victims of “the way to stop Arsenal is to get in their faces” philosophy of certain managers and players, which is tolerated and even encouraged by media commentators and pundits.

    Then they devote all their sympathies to the perpetrators of these assaults, all of whom are “not that type of player”

    They are disgraceful

  5. John L

    “Also, I don’t believe the general mantra that “no player sets out to injure an opponent”, which the media (and the “expert” pundits) are always spouting. There are many examples where that’s exactly what some players try to do – under instructions from some managers. (Pulis the obvious example)”

    100% correct.

    In an earlier article I have called out Arteta for defending this Moupay character by saying just that. Now I concede it is very difficult to know what’s inside somebody’s head, which in turn makes it very difficult to out right say whether he meant to hurt Leno or not. Only he knows that, and given his history that is not beyond the realms of possibility, but we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

    What isn’t difficult to say is that he knew that his actions could possibly, and in fact were highly likely, to cause injury, because charging into a player off the ground is inherently dangerous, and is one of the reasons that Keepers are usually so well protected. Not in leno’s case of course, he plays for Arsenal and that’s a whole different rule book.

    This level of protection is often ridiculed by the Neanderthal types often found inhabiting the terraces of the Stokes and Burnlys of this World, where we often hear the cries of’ it’s a mans game’ and the like, which is all well and good until you look at the laws of the game for Rugby, which the last time I looked was definitely ‘A Mans Game’. Yet we find this little gem tucked way in the Rule book:



    Foul Play

    17 – A player must not tackle, charge, pull, push or grasp an opponent whose feet are off the ground.

    Well well.

    Rugby, a real mans game, has outlawed ‘Charging a player who’s feet are off the ground’ because guess what…IT’S DANGEROUS.

    Yet nothing from Atkinson. Not a word.

    This man has a duty of care to these players and he failed dismally in his duty.

    Arteta has a duty of care to his players, and in my opinion, by defending Maupay, he too has failed in his duty.

    Also in the post match analysis Rio Ferdinand stated:

    “If that (Maupay) was my player I would want him to do that”

    So live on TV Ferdinand clearly thinks it’s okay to encourage a player to endanger another players wellbeing with ‘Dangerous play’.

    Defending that assault is inexcusable, and Ferdinand, Arteta or anyone else that does, should be ashamed of themselves.

  6. I look forward to the day that Arsenal players’ well being is taken seriously by the refs,the other players and managers.
    They matter too.

  7. “So one possible explanation is that the referees Arsenal get over and over again are less inclined to punish serious infringements against Arsenal players, and that the managers and players of other clubs have recognised this.”

    Seriously? “one possible explanation”??

    I’d love to hear of another decent explanation given the evidence!! There is only one possible explanation

    Arsenal are consistently fouled by their opponents more often than they foul them. Yet miraculously, their opponents receive cards less often. It’s not rocket science. If we were Man U or Liverpool or another media favourite on the receiving end this would have been highlighted time and time again until something was done about it. Actually, on reflection, it wouldn’t have been highlighted time and time again because something would have been done about it straight away. The fact is, other teams do not find themselves in this position.

    This really is like blaming the victim of a violent attack for repeatedly banging their head against the fist of their attacker.

  8. Mikey
    ‘This really is like blaming the victim of a violent attack for repeatedly banging their head against the fist of their attacker’
    As in the media and pundits always blaming Jack Wilshere for his own ankle injuries because he held on to the ball too long.

  9. Mikey @ mick shelly


    I distinctly remember Eduardo dangling his leg out simply asking for some ‘he’s not like that type’ to end his career.

    Only got his self to blame if you ask me.

  10. Until evidence is produced in a court of law, proving
    anti-Arsenal behaviour by the PGMOL, we are wasting our time castigating referees for their decisions (or lack of them).
    It may well be that the publicity awarded to complaints by Arsenal supporters in the media, over decades, has in fact led to deliberate anti-Arsenal action by match officials.They are only human after all.

  11. nicky……………..obviously you have never officiated top level games, or more obviously no games at all. UA has done an excellent job of statistically investigating officials errors over an entire season, based on what the letter and the spirit of the Laws dictate. They have recorded serious errors aginst every club but Arsenal lead the list in errors that have cost us enough points to ensure we don’t win any league titles.

    There is NO justification for hiding from or ignoring the PGMOL’s poor performances, questionable record of appointments and refusal to be transparent. Hide your head in the sand if you like, blame Arsenal’s fans and occasional management’s complaining for the ¨reprisals¨ you so eloquently propose.

    Officials are human certainly, BUT they take an oath of sorts to officiate firmly,fairly and without bias,prejudice or other discriminatory actions in all the games they are charged with. I am human and I NEVER set out to officiate against or for one team or the other. I NEVER wanted to have a reprisal against a team that made life harder for me, and 99.9% of the officials I have worked with at the professional level weren’t in to ¨reprisals¨ but there were far too many who could be ¨influenced¨ by pressure from fans,players,managers and even league officials.

    Ask Walter, a fellow referee, whether he ever set out to ¨even the score¨ because he got complaints about his officiating from a team or teams. I already know the answer but it is time you figured out who the real villians in this piece are….you are entitled to your opinion but everyone at AFC MUSt hold EPL officials and their leaders accountable.

  12. It seems that we can add Gabriel Martinelli to the list. It has been reported that he was clobbered by a Brighton player in the final minutes of the game and that he now has a long term injury.

  13. @omgarsenal,
    There is an old French saying”Qui s’excuse, s’accuse. You won’t want a translation!
    The point I was making and which you appear to have missed,is that unless it can be proven in law that members of the PGMOL are practising an anti-Arsenal attitude on the football field, there is little that can be done in order to put matters right.
    It may be of small consolation for you to know that I firmly believe that within the PGMOL there are referees who regularly officiate against Arsenal FC whenever possible.
    Proving it however is a different matter.

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