How did player injuries affect clubs last season?

By Tony Attwood

As things stand it seems that Arsenal are focussing their transfer efforts on getting the Manchester City forward Gabriel Jesus, the Leicester City midfielder Youri Tielemans and the Manchester City defensive midfielder / defender, Oleksandr Zinchenko  again from Manchester City.

In terms of player retention, the one player’s name who still comes up all the time is Eddie Nketia.  It seems Arsenal are putting in a lot of effort to retain him but there is no certainty of his signing as yet.  In terms of youth players the name being circulated is Marquinhos from the Brazilian club Sao Paulo.

Zinchenko made 28 appearances for Manchester City last season although only just over half were in the league, the rest being in the cups.

And that fact reminds us that this past season Arsenal made only seven appearances in cup matches: six in the league cup and one in the FA Cup.  In the previous season it was three in the league cup, two in the FA Cup and 14 games in the Europa League – a total of 19 cup matches.  That must certainly have helped us somewhat in terms of keeping the injury numbers down.

Go back one more year and the club played two games in the league cup, six in the FA Cup and eight in the Europa League, making 16 extra matches.

Of course younger players and backup players can be used in the League Cup and possibly in some FA Cup games depending on the opposition, as well as in the group stages of the Europa League.  But then the mainstream players need to be brought in for the later rounds in all competitions and this is where Arsenal did not have nearly so many matches last season.

Arsenal in fact benefitted this last season from the reduced number of injuries probably in part because of this reduction in the number of games played – and this allowed the club to get away with the reduced size of the squad.

However this leads to another thought: the link between injuries and games played is  not absolute since the club that suffered the most with injuries – Everton – were not playing in Europe and had only six domestic cup games (two in the league cup, four in the FA Cup).

Club Total player absences Total player days lost Injury per 1000 mins played Total injuries notified
Leicester City 46 1068 7.9 30
Everton 42 1255 11.4 34
Manchester U 37 806 7.2 26
Liverpool 39 990 6.4 27
Tottenham H 33 756 6.2 25
Chelsea 37 837 5.9 26
Arsenal 27 520 5.1 16
Manchester C 25 707 4.9 19


Of course it is very likely that the number of days lost to injuries is related to the number of games played, and the size of the squad, but there are other factors that could be taken into account such as the number of tackles that the players of each team put in – which as we have seen in research through the last season, varies enormously per club.

But it is also possible to relate the number of injuries that clubs get to the number of tackles that are made against a team – a factor we’ve never considered in the time we’ve been analysing tackles, fouls and yellow cards through the season.

We have not done that research and I can’t find anyone else who has attempted it (which is not surprising since we were the only people who focussed on the tackles, fouls and yellow card link.)

At this stage I’ve no idea if there will be any surprises to be found when we start looking at the number of tackles delivered against each team, but it does strike me as being worth a bit of research.   So that’s where we will go next.

Certainly the range in the number of player days lost to injury last season is huge with Arsenal losing under half the number of player-days to injury than Leicester City did.  How did that happen?  And why did Everton get so many injuries per 1000 minutes played?

Maybe there are no links, but I will try and find some, if they are there and then see what conclusions can be drawn.

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