In his Q&A session with the Arsenal Supporters’ Trust Ian Gazidis gave some interesting input into the issue of injuries which has so afflicted us this season.
Asserting that it wasn’t very easy to explain why he told his audience that it had been a ‘very, very dramatic season of injuries’. “Why is that? What factors have contributed to that?” the CEO posed his own questions before the going on to attempt to answer them “That’s not an easy question to answer. Not because we’re not focussed on it but because it’s actually very, very complex. There are very many different factors.”
Some of the reasons were to do with our playing style he contended: “We’ve got a team that plays a possession style of football. We run more than any other team in the league and we also have a very young team. So there are some fairly unique aspects about our team that other teams don’t have.”
Another factor was a quirk in this season’s fixture schedule Gazidis explained: “There`s also another factor that you take into account when you look at the number of injuries which is the number of days rest you have between games and there was something happening this year.
“I’m not suggesting there is someone in the league office that is making this schedule in a particular way but, I think there is something systemic in the way we get selected for television games that tends to lead to us having less rest than the opponents we’re playing. If you do an analysis of that it’s quite dramatic. We’ve had cumulatively 36 less days rest than the opponent we’re playing. Chelsea by comparison have had 22 Manchester 24 so there’s a significant disparity in the way that the schedule works out”
The process of injury management is not something new at the club. Gazidis went on to explain that investment in improving this aspect had been underway long before this season but these different aspects have to be considered carefully if they were to be able to address them accurately.
“So are we getting more injuries because we have the ball more? Are we getting more injuries because we move the ball faster and because our players run more? Are we getting more injuries because our players are younger? Perhaps the converse would be true. Are we getting more injuries because we’re playing on slightly less rest than our opponents?” asked the Arsenal boss.
While these were all factors that had to be addressed he also accepted that a large part was probably simply down to bad luck. “You’ve got to factor in that a lot of the long term injuries were impact injuries and I don’t know if that is something that could just be bad luck – remember this is quite a small sample size that you’re talking about so maybe it was just plain bad luck.”
One of Wenger`s first priorities at the club was to build a new state of the art training facility allegedly paid with the transfer fee received for Anelka very early in Wenger`s reign. The level of sophistication employed by the club over many years has been set at a high level. Sports science investment has always been a strong focus of Wengers time at the club the knowledge of which should have been enough to allay common fears that there is some significant defect in the club’s handling of players and their treatment. Gazidis highlighted one investment this year that emphasises the level of sophisticated technology the club are investing in to improve injury management.
“We`ve just introduced a GPS system for example this year for the first time. This is tracking, literally from satellites in space, the training movements on the training field of every player and it gives you a lot of information. It tells you not just how fast, how far those players are running and what levels of intense activity they have in training but it also measures something called the ‘load’ literally the amount of time that the players foot is on the ground while he’s running. What you can see is if you’ve got a player who is coming up to a risk of injury in a subsequent game. You can see 2 things in general. One is their work rate comes down in training and secondly their ‘load’ increase in other words their foot stays on the ground longer when they’re running. When you’re feeling good and feeling active you’re more on your toes, when you’re not you’re more on your heels. That can help you to predict when players are in a dangerous situation.
“Unfortunately to get the full benefits of that, to really understand it you need to have a lot of record of any individual player so it takes a while to build up because every player is different. It takes a while to build that record to get the full benefit of that system so we’re unlikely to see the benefits really coming through until probably the 2nd half of next year but that’s the type of investment and there are others that we’re making to try to push forward and get us some cutting edge.”
Contrary to the misconception that the medical and physio resources at the club are underperforming what is clear is that the club has invested in the past, and continues to invest, significant resources in injury management. Gazidis went to some lengths to highlight that the experiences of recent seasons have encouraged the club to invest further in what is already a high level of sophisticated analysis.
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