Apr 092010

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.

  6 Responses to “Lewin speaks on our injury troubles + CL thoughts”

  1. An interesting article and it is good to actually get some facts rather than opinion etc. I would however like to raise an important issue with regard to our new veteran rugby physio and our current medical team, run by the former Irish Rugby Team doctor and British Lions – and the amount of injuries “The Arsenal” have suffered this season (far more than any other I can remember).Football injuries on the whole (as any sports scientist will tell you) are completely different to those generally received by rugby players, if you don’t believe me then do some research. There is no doubt (and I accept that we have been targeted by lesser teams, pass the ball more than any other eng prem teams and are therefore more likely to caught by late challenges intentionally or not) that this very fact, namely, our medical team is from a rugby background, that we have been suffering more than ever with an horrific injuries. This is surely not coincindental.

    Look forward to other gooner’s thoughts on the matter.

    Cheers Nick (Hornsey)

  2. Nick, not our entire medical team have a rugby background – just the new arrival.

  3. I’d like to touch on the comments made by some who believe that the premiership is no longer the strongest league in europe.

    Firstly, i don’t think that the premier league was ever particularly strong. Just that the top four were. It’s not like our second tier teams have been performing particularly well in the uefa cup is it?

    In regards to the big four, i don’t think that this season has just been a blip in europe. I genuinely believe that our top four are weaker than in previous seasons. This has been the reason that they’ve been loosing far more games against the lower teams than in previous seasons. At Arsenal we’ve obviously had terrible injury problems, but we’ve also got a weaker squad in general than we’ve had in previous seasons. Gone are the days when we had bergkamp, henry, wiltord and kanu all fighting for a forewared place, and players like denilson wouldn’t have got anywhere near our team in past seasons. Utd have replaced ronaldo with valencia, and fletcher is no keane. Chelsea have just got older and slower, and liverpool without hyppia and alonso aren’t the same team. Another way of looking at it is this. Our invincible team, had 9 players who would have got into a world 11, excluding toure and lauren. How many of our current squad would? Now look at utd, and other than roony, who there would?

  4. Cheers Pete, point taken regarding medical team, think I’m just attempting (clutching at straws) to find a reason for our unlucky run of injuries (ala spurs crock fest a few years ago). I suppose the only answer is having quality cover (e.g like barca in the week)all over the park and that’s down to the boss – and listening to his post-match comments after barca 2nd leg I have a feeling he realises this. Quality site by the way (enjoy majority of arsenal web/blogs etc but yours is a little more thoughtful and intelligent!). But that’s why we are the arsenal – a real people’s club (unlike those many clubs who claim to be) in terms of nationality, diversity, class, ethnicity, background,hair colour, shoe size! An english club but also a global one!

    Cheers Nick (Hornsey)

  5. Cheers Nick – I can see why you’d want to find a reason for all the injuries, it does become a complete mystery after a while and you think there has to be a reason. Even Wenger seems mystified, and it must be frustrating for him to call on his first eleven so rarely.

    Thanks for the kind words!

    Pocker James, I actually think the depth in our league is stronger than elsewhere, not the opposite. The gap in Spain between the top two and the rest is so large it is embarrassing. Sides in Spain and Italy can play shadow sides against the bottom half and still win – you can’t do that here.

  6. Nick, not our entire medical team have a rugby background – just the new arrival.

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