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.
- The home and away scandal: ignorance, or cover up?
- The reason why Liverpool and Man C are ahead of Arsenal.
- How which referee a club gets has a major impact on the result of each game
- The statistical evidence that shows PGMO are biased against Arsenal
- How European football has taken up the fight against clubs breaking FFP