Sunday, 13 October 2013

A thought on Arsenal's injury crisis



Injuries aren't exactly fair to us, huh?

With Theo, Podolski, Santi Cazorla and the Ox all out for long term, it is quite incredible that Arsenal have all of their four wingers injured already at the start of the season. However, it is not just them. Bacary Sagna and Laurent Koscielny have also picked up knocks recently which will undoubtedly put a strain on our already thin defence. Yaya Sanogo, our backup striker, is out with a back injury before he kicked a ball for the club. Our squad, which is thin enough due to the sale of the deadwood, is already starting to give way. Oh, and don't even get me started on Abou Diaby.   

Even so, we are on top of the league. It is quite remarkable that a team which is missing their last year's most influential player, along with two reliable wingers in the form of Podolski and Walcott, are still managing to be on the top of Europe's most competitive league. While it is early in the season and we still haven't faced tough opposition apart from the Spuds, no one can deny that the early signs are good. However, the niggling problem of the constant injuries plaguing us won't leave the minds of every Gooner, because we know that we need to end our drought this year, and we don't want anything messing up that road to success.

Which is why the recent news of Koscielny picking up a thigh strain was met with groans and grumbles. It was just another blow on our injury list which seemed to be easing after Wenger said that he hoped that Cazorla and Podolski would be back after the international break. As it is, we have only 3 center backs in this squad, and injuries there only worsen our weakening condition. Add to that the loss of key wingers, and that forms the black lining in an otherwise silver cloud.

And it's not like this is the first time this has happened to us. Over the season, this Arsenal squad have been losing key players to injury, so much so that their return has been hailed as a "new signing". Last year it was Jack Wilshere, the year before that it was.... well, Wilshere, and the year before that it was Thomas Vermaelen (in form!) and Cesc Fabregas. Also, constant injuries to van Persie meant that we never really had a proper, fit squad. Were we unlucky? It's certainly a possible explanation, but I'd like to float a different theory.

Let's not kid ourselves, the only player in our squad last season who could be classified as a world-class player was Santi Cazorla. If he wasn't Spanish, he would've got a lot more international caps for his country. My point is, our only world class player played EVERY SINGLE PREMIER LEAGUE GAME of last season. That is like, the definition of overplaying, which hardly makes it surprising that he is injured right now. If Arsene Wenger overplays his world class players so much with such poor man management, the players are likely to succumb to injuries.

It's not only Cazorla. Wilshere was overplayed in the 2010/11 season, even when he was 19 and the season was already dead towards the end. Even though he was in the red zone, Wenger continuously played him, and after he recovered from his 1 year rehab, the manager did not ease him into the squad. Instead, he rashly made him start every game until he got injured again. I mean, what the hell?!

Our deadly attacking trio of Fabregas, Nasri and van Persie were injury prone too. Even though van Persie did indeed have his own "glass ankles" agenda, I was infuriated by watching how much Wenger overplayed Fabregas and Nasri - especially Fabregas - which led to hamstring and ankle injuries. One particular example on how dependent we were on those players was a game against Aston Villa 3 or 4 years ago, when Fabregas, who was unfit, was forced to come off from the bench after a goalless 60 minutes. He then proceeded to score 2 goals and aggravate his injury again, which was inspirational, yes, but ultimately symbolic of how horrible a man manager Wenger is.

We have 6 quality midfield players, out of which the likes of Arteta, Wilshere and Rosicky are benched. I hope Wenger rotates his midfield regularly to stop injuries happening to Flamini, Ramsey and Ozil due to overplaying, but if he doesn't, he would have no excuses, having had suitable replacements raring to take to the field. However, needless to say, I have no faith in Wenger's man management skills, and at this rate, I expect Ozil and Giroud to be out for long term and Arsenal fans failing to see Wenger's fault in it.

Olivier Giroud has been playing as our only recognized striker for more than a year, and it's surprising that he hasn't been injured yet. He was considered injury prone at Montpellier, yet he managed to go through the whole season without picking up serious injuries. The burden already seems to be getting to him, because his performance against the Baggies was a bit below-par. However, failing to buy a striker and keeping Bendtner as backup is ridiculous, and I expect Giroud to find injury soon.

After two seasons, we genuinely look like title contenders and the other teams are beginning to take us seriously. We have a decent defence, a strong midfield and a good attack. The only remaining requirements in this squad are a center back and a striker. It's no use blaming Wenger and crying over spilt milk, instead, all we can do is hope that he rotates the current team we have to mount a sustained title challenge until January, when the winter transfer window opens. However, I don't think that he is going to buy anyone in the January transfer window, which will lead to another disappointing campaign.

I feel that the season is destined for disaster. Let's hope that I am wrong.

-Santi (Follow me on twitter: @ArsenalBlogz )