By Tony Attwood
So shouts the Mirror, raising the issue once again that Arsenal are being somewhat careless or incompetent about player injuries – not just getting more players injured than other teams, but even being so stupid as to purchase players who are injured and will never recover.
What is always to be noticed with such articles is the fact that no comparative data is given – instead what we get are sentences such as, “It wouldn’t have been the first time a new Arsenal player arrived while on the recovery trail, with some fans likely to recall the struggles of Kim Kallstrom and Denis Suarez in recent years.”
What is interesting is that Kallstrom’s name is cited, even though his case dates from eight years ago. And no evidence is produced to compare how many times Arsenal have signed a player who is in recovery at the time of signing but fails to make a fulsome recovery, with other clubs that have done exactly the same thing.
But what makes this piece particularly curious is that the Mirror itself has previously published a full analysis of player injuries from last season which it now refuses to mention. Perhaps because this piece shows that far from being an injury-prone club, Arsenal were last season 16th in the Premier League list of clubs measured on injuries per 1000 minutes played.
Now this “per minute played” review is quite a powerful analysis since it overcomes the argument that Arsenal got fewer injuries last season because the club was playing fewer games than rivals. Arsenal got 4.9 injuries per 1000 minutes played compared with the most injury-prone club, Everton, on 11.4 injuries per 1000 minutes. Meaning Everton lost 133% more time through injuries than Arsenal.
Comparing Arsenal with its “big six” rivals is interesting too. Only Manchester City did better than Arsenal on 4.9 injuries per 1000 minutes. Manchester United were the worst on 7.2 minutes.
If we look at total days lost for injuries, the numbers are again of interest for the big six, and to help with the broader picture I’ll throw in the best and worst of the rest…
- Everton: 1255 days lost
- Liverpool: 990 days lost
- Chelsea: 837 days lost
- Manchester United: 806 days lost
- Tottenham Hotspur: 756 days lost
- Manchester City: 707 days lost
- Arsenal: 520 days lost
- Crystal Palace: 401 days lost
It is also interesting to look at the total number of injuries again looking at the big six and the best and worst of the rest
- Everton: 34 players injuries
- Liverpool: 27 player injuries
- Chelsea: 26 player injuries
- Manchester United: 26 players injuries
- Tottenham Hotspur: 25 player injuries
- Manchester City: 19 player injuries
- Arsenal: 16 player injuries
- Crystal Palace: 10 player injuries.
So Arsenal had fewer player injuries than any of the other big six. And indeed only Palace and Wolverhampton escaped with fewer. And yes of course Arsenal were helped by the lack of European football – but then none of the top eight clubs in terms of player injuries last season played in Europe, so that is not a guarantee of the reduction of injuries.
This of course can also be analysed from the point of view of cost. Here again the Mirror itself reported the issue, and concluded that Chelsea had the highest total injury cost in terms of £14.02m paid in salaries to players who couldn’t play. Manchester United were second in this regard with an expenditure of £11.67m on injured players. Arsenal were nowhere near this with a loss of £4.72m in terms of paying injured players. Only Tottenham of the big six got away with less – it cost them £4.45m.
In short it cost Chelsea almost three times as much to carry its injured players as it cost Arsenal, last season.
As for Vieira, according to the Mirror he was “spotted in the protective boot, prompting fans to fear the worst, He had picked up a foot injury on Portugal under-21 duty earlier in the month, but the extent of the problem wasn’t clear to all.
“He responded to the concerns, writing, on Instagram, “Relax guys, it’s just a precaution. It’s all okay and will be joining the @Arsenal team for pre-season very soon.”
So there we are – no story at all. But it still made the papers.
And in case you are interested and are a long-term reader, you will recall the days in which Arsenal had one of the worst injury records of any club in the league. How did we transform ourselves into a club with one of the least bad records?
The most likely explanation comes with the move two seasons ago over to the no-tackling game, which was introduced to regain control of matches from referees. Arsenal in 2019/20 got 86 yellow cards – more than anyone else. The following season it was 47 – with only three clubs getting fewer. This was done by dramatically cutting out tackling. The side effect was that it cut injuries as well.
So, one could say, by and large it is all coming together.
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