And there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth.
United’s exit from the Champions League has left many debating whether or not this is the death knell for the Premiership’s strength in European competition, after five consecutive finalists and regular dominance of the semi final stage.
Total nonsense, of course. It has been a bad year for the Premiership, but that is all. If we continue to have no representatives in the latter stages for the next few years, then there may be a case, but right now it is just a blip. By the same logic, when all the top sides departed the FA Cup early a couple of years ago, with Cardiff reaching Wembley, was the Premiership no longer the best league in England? Exactly. Welcome to cup football.
Of course, English sides could see their dominance stripped away – the climate elsewhere is a more attractive proposition for many players, and the 50% tax band means that the same net pay in England can cost clubs tens of thousands more each week, per player. That soon adds up.
Nonetheless, this was simply a season where Liverpool were awful, we ran into an awesome team in Barcelona, and Chelsea and United got outplayed on the day. In other words, shit happens.
Elsewhere, Colin Lewin gave an interesting interview to the official site, talking about the ridiculous number of injuries we’ve suffered this season. The full article is well worth a read, but I’ve picked out a few highlights.
When asked why we had suffered so much this campaign, Lewin rejected the ‘injury prone’ accusation thrown at some of our squad, explaining that the sort of injuries we’ve suffered could happen to the most hardened pro:
“It has been a freak season for traumatic injuries. We would normally expect one, sometimes two fractures a year. This season we are on seven.”
Seven fractures is a ridiculous number, and it doesn’t matter if you have weak hamstrings and groins if you get your leg snapped, or pick up a serious impact injury. I feel for Van Persie in particular – he is so often labelled injury prone, but take a look at his history and you’ll find that it isn’t the same part of his body getting crocked every time, he just gets freak injuries a lot. Clichy used to suffer from the same before he became a first team regular, losing a couple of years of his early career.
“The other thing is when you have several long-term injuries your squad is depleted. That increases the demands on other players because there is less room for rotation.”
This is something I touched on a while ago – getting hit by injuries is a vicious cycle. Because of the threadbare nature of the squad, players are rushed back ahead of time, or play for longer with knocks. Three days later, they are patched up and sent out again. Once you start getting injuries, it is hard to stop, and is a reason why we always have multiple absentees in the same areas of the field.
“Johan Djourou had a difficult problem with the cartilage in his knee joint. He has made virtually a full recovery and we expect him to train fully with the squad within the next fortnight, as will Kieran Gibbs. They have both made full recoveries from what could have been career-threatening injuries.”
For all the complaining about Silvestre, he is only our fifth choice centre half – Djourou has been something of a forgotten man this season. Very interesting to hear his and Gibbs’ injuries described as potentially career-threatening, and it is good to have them back.
“Robin will be joining the squad for full training imminently”
In a way, it is a shame the season is coming to an end. Although our squad are depleted and knackered, we have long term injury victims coming back to fitness. Djourou, Gibbs and Van Persie would be ready to play if the season were slightly extended, and Van Persie might even get on the field this month.
Reading the piece gives a lot of insight into how strong our medical department really is. The experience is immense, and we’ve got a new physio on the way, a veteran with a background of treating rugby injuries, which you could cynically argue is what we need given how some teams play against us.
Where we would be with less injuries is a tantalising prospect. One of these years, we might find out.