Category Archives: injury

How do we solve a problem like Saliba?

How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand

How do you keep a CB on the bench? How do you—okay, that’s enough of The Sound of Music for one post. We’ve gone without Saliba for four matches now, having drawn the last two in ways that dramatically highlighted just how badly we need him (and how thin our bench is). With Arteta offering grim news, it’s starting to feel like the Prem is slip-slidin’ away…

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Thomas Partey and the scare that wasn’t…

International breaks are always fraught with danger. Many players, especially those who play for smaller ctountries, frequently find themselves as the biggest and best player in the squad, exposing them to larger responsiibilties and roles, not to mention greater risks. It’s one thing to be among the best in your club’s squad; you can still count on having teammates of a similar quality. That drop-off at the country level, though, puts a player like Thomas Partey in dicey territory. For as much as we depend on him, Ghana may depend on him ten times as much, if not more. It was therefore a terrifying moment when we learned that Partey was not in the starting lineup against Angola this weekend. As it turns out, though, it all sounds like another chapter of the age-old story of making a mountain out of a molehill.

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Rodri tries to join the “Abuse Arsenal Ankles Army”

Spain and Man City defensive midfielder Rodri did his level best on Saturday to join the likes of Ryan Shawcross, Dan Smith, and Martin Taylor during Spain’s match against Norway in Euro qualifiers, going in with a reckless, studs-first tackle on Norway and Arsenal midfielder Martin Ødegaard. It was, to be honest—and regular readers will know that I’m averse to hyperbole—disgusting. Ødegaard had planted his right foot and had taken the shot with his left. Rodri, late to close down, slid in from Ødegaard’s right (from his planted foot) and scythed the Norwegian down in a move that reverberated down through the years.

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Our most-important signing won’t even play a single minute..

Forget Alexis. Forget Debuchy, Ospina, or Chambers.  Ignore any reports around any other player we may or may not sign. Those players, after all, will vie for time on the pitch with other members of the squad, rotating in as necessary or deserved and, more crucially, replacing them when they’re injured. Arsenal’s most significant signing of the summer won’t compete for time on the pitch . He won’t reduce anyone to time on the bench. His job will consist entirely of keeping our players on the pitch as much as possible. Shad Forsythe, fitness coach for Germany’s national team, will come in to work alongside our current fitness coach, Tony Colbert. Forsythe’s name may not be as drool-inducing as some of the players we covet, but his contributions off the pitch could prove to be even more vital than any contributions any players could make on it.

After all, even before the additions of the aforementioned four, this was a squad that held firmly onto first place for 128 days, keeping Chelsea, Liverpool, and Man City at arm’s length until the wheels fell off. Injuries and fatigue denied us the services of player after player after player to the point that, collectively, our players missed 289 league games, far away the best (worst?) record in the Prem, more than double the number missed by Chelsea’s players (109) or by City’s (142). If Forsythe can reduce our injury-record even marginally, we could see a significant improvement in our fortunes.

Forsythe’s speciality is in recovery, which some take to mean “getting injured but healing quickly.” However, this reflects only a partial understanding of his role. “Recovery” as Forsythe practices it is a concept much broader than that, involving bloodwork, nutrition, and other treatments tailored specifically to each athlete and his or her extertion levels. In this piece he wrote for the PerformBetter! website, he explains his methods and work with the German national team. I’ll boil it down a bit but encourage you to give the full article a read. What he emphasizes is a regimen that will enhance an athlete’s body to recover from exertion more quickly, enabling the athlete’s tissues and joints to recuperate more fully between matches, thereby reducing the risk of exhaustion, which causes some injuries and can increase the risk of other injuries.
For example, Forsythe writes:

Post workout nutrition should consist of: a mixture of carbohydrates, fats, proteins (based on the athletes body composition and exertion level), electrolytes (based on the athletes perspiring levels), and water for hydration. Cryotherapy should consist of cold water immersion (55 degrees F) for at least 5 minutes. Athletes exerting the whole body (Rugby/American Football) should be fully immersed with only the head showing while athlete primarily exerting the lower body (Cyclist/Soccer) immersion to above the waist is acceptable.

Daily treatments that include stretching, cryotherapy (that would be the cold-water immersion), self-massage, and professional massage may not sound like revolutionary techniques, but I’m sure that Forsythe’s work with the German team and ours would consist of more individualized regimens. Earlier in that same article, he talks of “blood samples weekly throughout the [2006 World Cup] to monitor signs of stress and overtraining” and how team-doctors reported “the lowest markers for stress and overtraining in the history of German National Teams during a tournament and credited the results to our consistent recovery regimen.” Germany may not have won the 2006 World Cup, but they did win in 2014 despite playing in the heat and humidity against an Argentinian squad theoretically more-comfortable with such conditions.

Forsythe may not be able to prevent the kind of injures that Oxlade-Chamberlain or Walcott suffered this season, by he may very well be able to prevent the other knocks, niggles, and strains that build up over the course of a season. How much better might Mesut have played in his first Prem season, his first away from La Liga’s softer winter? Would Ramsey have suffered his thigh-strain in the first place? Could we see Diaby play an entire season? We lambasted our trainers all season for failing to prevent injuries or get players back on their feet as quickly as we were told they’d be. I’m not saying that Forsythe will set us up for an injury-free season; far from it. If he can mitigate our injury-woes in any way, though, he might just be the best addition to the squad.

Injuries to Wilshere and Ox are a Good Thing™

In an international match fraught with tension, on whose outcome a solution to climate change, racism, and the crisis in Ukraine no doubt depended, England and Arsenal suffered a setback when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was bundled into, causing his right knee to buckle and possibly damaging ligaments. The restults of a scan have yet to be released, but Ox is all but sure to miss the World Cup, a devastating setback to the lad just after earning a chance to shine. We very nearly suffered a double-dose as Jack Wilshere looked like he picked up a little niggle, although his may have been more of the crampy variety. It’s a good thing that so much hung in the balance here, or we might be left wondering just why the match was played at all. More to the point, though, for as much of a setback as Ox’s injury may be to the Three Lions, it may yet come as good news for Arsenal.

Awkward: Ecuador midfielder Carlos Gruezo landed awkwardly on the knee of the midfielder

Hear me out. I know we’ve come to expect the worst when it comes to injuries, but there could still be a silver-lining to this one. Flush off of an FA Cup victory that slayed the trophy-drought and silenced a good many critics. Arsène might be tempted to believe that the squad is in fine shape, strong enough to mount and sustain a more serious challenge for the Prem title. After all, as we’ve all told ourselves, we might have won it this year were it not for injuries to Ox, Diaby, Walcott, Wilshere, Ramsey, Cazorla, Podolski….um, I think that’s it for the major ones. Hard to keep track, to be honest. I won’t even try to list the various niggles here and there.

All of those injuries were ignored. In fact, the only response we saw from Arsène felt almost more like satire if not slap-stick when, in the January transfer-window, he tried to bolster a midfield decimated by injuries by signing a midfielder who was already injured. It feels like a screenplay of the sort that Ionesco or Godot might have written.

However, Ox’s latest injury might serve as enough of a shot across the bow to jolt Arsène into some kind of action that actually amounts to something. For manager as averse to making ambitious moves in the transfer-window, setbacks, crises, and debacles do seem to light some kind of fire under the man. Källström might have been more a farce than a force, but it was something. In August, the capitulation to Aston Villa was followed by the signing of Özil. Prior to that, it was the injury to Kieran Gibbs that accelerated the singing of Nacho Monreal. Heck, this plucky l’il blog owes its existence to injuries and urgent transfer-business that sometimes follow.

While hoping and praying that Ox’s injury is not serious, I do hope that it forces Arsène to see just how vulnerable this squad is. For as satisfying and exhilarating as the FA Cup victory was, there will linger a bit of regret (if not harsher feelings) around the idea that we might have done better in the Prem. When we were at full strength (sorry, Abou), we were top of the table. However, the heavy minutes logged by those who inspired us to get there—Ramsey, Özil, Giroud, and others—led to some increasingly jaded performances from some as well as outright injury to others. For a manager whose transfer-policy alternates between “no thanks” and “who’s leaving/injured? Okay, fine, get someone from France on the line”, this latest bad news offers a fresh reminder that, yes, reinforcements are needed.

If that’s not silver lining enough, Ox’s injury will likely prevent him from suffering further injuries during the more-intense action, heat, and humidity of mid-summer football in Brazil. This was a friendly match in Miami (no laggard when it comes to heat or humidity). While we’re on the subject of who won’t play in Brazil, Jack Wilshere’s play against Ecuador was apparently lackluster enough that he may lose his place on the pitch, something that sits just fine with me if it means that he stays firmly planted on the bench instead of careening recklessly around the pitch. There may be unanswered questions about how much Jack has progressed in the last few years, but his progression as a Gunner will not be helped by logging heavy minutes in Brazil, subjecting those precious ankles to even more wear and tear.

Arsène will be in Brazil as a commentator, so there’s hope that this give him a chance to consort and fraternize with some very good footballers. If Ox isn’t going to play, perhaps he could drag himself along a few meters behind Arsène, sighing, groaning, and wincing every once in a while. “Hey, boss!” he could call out. “There’s Edinson. Let’s go talk to him!” And so on…

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