Saturday, April 3, 2010

Why are Arsenal players always injured?

"I am 100% confident that, medically, everything was done properly and I checked that with our medical team.... We got two independent doctors who looked at the x-ray post-Birmingham. If they had felt it needed a deeper investigation, they would have told us."

- Arsene Wenger, about Cesc's injury

I'm wondering what's happening in the Arsenal medical rooms. After Barcelona, we have Cesc out for the season, Gallas out for the season, Arshavin out for a while. Freak injuries happen, but Cesc and Arshavin were both nursing injuries, and yet were cleared to be play. Gallas had come out off a long lay-off and wasn't match-fit, and yet was cleared to play.

Gallas was declared fit after going to rehab for 10 days, and then training with the team for 4 days. He was so fit that he was "jumping, running up and down stairs in France and he had very hard sessions." Gallas declared himself fit, and so Wenger thought it was worthwhile to risk him.

I don't get Wenger's rationale. "Hard sessions" aren't game-time. Running up and down stairs aren't game-time. Jumping isn't game-time. The only thing that simulates the demands placed on a body during a game of football is a game of football. I'm sorry, but it's really dumb to throw an unfit 32 year old with history of recurring soft-tissue injuries into a high-pressure, high-intensity football match, especially if that 32 year old hasn't played in a few months.

We should not have risked Gallas in this game. We should've played our reserve centre-back, paired him with Vermaelen, and told our defence to help him out. That's what a reserve is for - to cover for a first-teamer who's injured. If we're forced to risk an unfit Gallas because our alternatives are an unfit Sol Campbell or a liability in Silvestre, all it means is that our squad is too thin and we really urgently need recruits. And if Silvestre isn't good enough to play against Barcelona, what is his purpose?

Cesc Fabregas had a bone bruise injury during the Birmingham game, got his shin tangled between Puyol's legs in the Barcelona game, and broke his fibula. Arsenal's two independent doctors said that Cesc was fine, but he clearly wasn't - bruised bone, led to weakened bone placed under stress during a game, led to shin between chopped between two meaty Catalonian thighs, led to cracked shin on our young captain. Who are we hiring to do our medical consultations?

Was it worthwhile to play Cesc Fabregas in this match? In the context of the match, it probably was. I think Cesc's been playing injured for a lot of the season. There is no replacement for him. And there was no way he'd want to miss this match. If Cesc hadn't tried to kick the ball through Puyol's thigh, he probably would've pulled up sore the next day, recovered by Sunday, and nursed that leg back to health in the subsequent weeks. Freakish bad luck that he's out for the season, but sometimes that's the way it goes.

I think we're in danger of running Cesc into the ground, but that's another story.

So what's next? I find it strange that in the week Man Utd lost Rooney, we lost Cesc. We're got Cesc, Gallas, Arshavin and van Persie out for the first team. We're in 3rd spot, and with a chance of getting within 3 points (?) of the leaders tonight. I think it's remarkable that we're so close, considering our injuries. But I also think it's remarkable that we keep getting these injuries every season, and no one thinks that we need to change our approach to player rehabilitation.

Incidentally, Craig Gardner, the guy who tackled Cesc in the Birmingham game, had this to say:

Plus, Gardiner is a nice boy who cries to his mum, helps old ladies across the street, has no malice in his bones and besides, it isn't his fault that weak foreigners don't like it up 'em. I hope Gardiner realises that the only people who try to hurt people deliberately are psychopaths. The vast majority of people who hurt people are just stupid, crass, selfish idiots who lose momentary sight of the consequences of reckless actions. And being in the latter group isn't something to be proud of - even if you're an English clod-hoofer who can run hard and kick hard and like a bit of rough stuff in a game of footy.

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