It happens every season. It is one thing having your players injured while playing competitive matches for their country, or even warm up matches for the real thing, but it is utterly infuriating when your player gets a long term injury because, in the middle of a busy domestic schedule, FIFA decide to randomly slap an entirely meaningless international midweek into the mix when the next ‘real’ games are some five months away.
Imagine how Wenger is feeling now. He has never been a fan of these friendlies, stuffed as they are into an already brimming calendar, and now one of his most influential players this season will be out until next year. Other countries might not be as affected by this as they have their winter break to enable recovery, but not Premiership clubs. We have a manic Christmas schedule that Walcott will now miss, having dislocated his shoulder to an extent that requires surgery.
Early estimates are that he could miss up to three months, but even if the recovery is shorter than that, and he returns at the beginning of February, by my reckoning he’ll miss eleven league games, and the remaining two Champions League fixtures, not to mention the FA Cup. It is a serious blow.
Arseblogger makes the point that the FA should pay his wages for the duration of his injury and while it might seem to some like sour grapes, it has a lot of merit. While this was a designated international midweek, that does not mean a match has to be organised, and with the governing body supposedly protecting our players from burnout (remember this is the same organisation that acknowledges our bigger top flight league harms our international side due to exhaustion), sanctioning this game is plain stupid, if not bordering on irresponsible. But then they’ll get money for it, so who cares, huh?
Injuries are inevitable, but the only ones affected are the clubs who pay these players vast sums. And while this can happen to any club, there are certain Big Four clubs that always manage to find a way to avoid their players getting involved in these matches in the first place. When such dishonesty is promoted, can the FA not take the hint?
This issue is one that will return, time and time again. In rugby, clubs have successfully won compensation, while in cricket, the ECB pays central contracts to its key players. In football, however, the FA just borrow players, crock them, and send them back without any word of apology.
And when its one of your own, and one of the bright sparks of the season so far, it is beyond annoying.