Date: 12th January 2011 at 10:21am
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My timing for this piece may be a bit skewiff following hot on the heels of the announcement that Arsene is casting his net into the transfer ocean given injuries to his two most experienced centre backs. The superstitious amongst you will probably be unknotting your hankies and pressing hot needles into my voodoo doll for possibly jinxing a pleasant situation. But I feel it is worth saying. Arsenal have, as the world and his wife knows, suffered more brutally from injuries than the Great Britain Base Jumping Squad over the last few years.

The reasons for this have been debated ad nauseam and I shan`t expand on them all again here, suffice to say that athletes who are tuned to a higher pitch, are also more likely to go twang! I`ve played eight a side football on a weekly basis for my work team for two years and I have never seen anyone pull a hamstring or a groin muscle, despite the only preceding exercise of any of our weeks being the five minute warm up pre match. Arsenal are conversely the fittest team in the league, conjuring countless late goals due to our energy and endurance when other teams are flagging. But this comes at the price of a few muscular boo boos and ouchies. (Meathead centre halves that leap into tackles at 1,000mph don`t help our cause much either). The ongoing situation became farcical to the point that every May seemed to be punctuated by the wail of “what ifs” with regard our injury situation. Discussion around the situation created more heat than light as the Arsenal forums buzzed with well aimed pot shots at the medical department. I certainly came to a stage where I suspected them of incompetence. (Allowing Robin van Persie 3 weeks to trail around the Eastern block looking for goose fat and unicorn piss to soak his ankle in before they even bothered to look at the injury for themselves has to be an all time low for our medical team).

The situation came to a point where the nation`s journalists shone their spotlight onto the Arsenal medics and demanded answers from the manager. An ever loquacious Arsene promised “a thorough review of the medical department.” So, with over half of the season gone, and whisper it quietly, has anyone else noticed we`ve suffered a lot less in the injury department thus far? Whether or not this is down to anything tangible that has been done on the medical side is open to speculation, but I believe there to be circumstantial evidence to show this not to be the case. This is most glaringly apparent in our PR around injuries. I am sure Arsene will forever be haunted by his utterance in January 2008 that Tomas Rosicky`s hamstring injury would be a case of “days not weeks.” Such an error is understandable, diagnosis in the early stages of injury is a precarious undertaking, the full symptoms are not always instantly apparent. (See Frank Lampard`s groin injury in August, the initial prognosis of which was a two week absence). But the error with Rosicky was compounded by the constantly bullish medical updates, declaring he would “definitely” be back by September 2008. Tomas did not reappear until September 2009.

This season we have an unfortunate, yet instructive parallel. Thomas Vermaelen`s achilles injury has perplexed all and sundry. However, if you scan Wenger`s media pronouncements since it became clear that this was more than a matter of days in the treatment room, he has been cautious in his utterings. Either refusing all out to set a comeback date, or else on the few occasions he has, he has peppered the prognosis with cautious adjectives. Likewise, when Michael Essien used Abou Diaby`s ankle as a bouncy castle, the manager did not set a time maxim for his recovery. Of course this does not necessarily dictate that the medical team are doing anything different in their treatment, but it shows thought has gone into the media missives in order to quell supporter frustration with the injury situation. It`s an almost Orwellian tack we have taken. It shows some semblance of thought has gone into it; which is important in an age where fans demand instant information on every facet of the club. However, there are hints of change in the fitness treatment of players, which may explain the fall in injuries. The squad has been utilised more effectively for a start. The recovery of Robin van Persie has been treated with the most velvet of kid gloves. Lest we forget he made his return from injury on November 7 and he has still yet to play back to back matches. Indeed, he has only started four games in that time. Marouane Chamakh ahs carried the burden in his absence, but now Bendtner and van Persie are back to fitness, Chamakh has been afforded more of a breather in recent weeks. In short, we don`t look to be overloading players to the same extent we have in previous seasons. Even now, we are currently down to two fit centre halves for 3 weeks, the manager is eager to make a defensive purchase. Last season, Gallas and Vermaelen were partnered together for nearly every game up until March, before they both promptly fell apart and spent the run in on the treatment table. Arsene seems to appreciate that the reason we seem to get a lot of injuries around spring time has been due to overloading in the past.

Aaron Ramsey`s rehabilitation appears to have taken a different approach with his shirt term loan spell at Nottingham Forest. Diaby and Eduardo`s recoveries were hampered by persistent muscular injuries; whether or not that fate will befall Aaron remains to be seen, but we look to be taking a different course given the lessons learned from the aforementioned. Perhaps it is too early to commend the medical team yet, we play something like 12 games before the end of February, which will see our resources stretched. How we handle the squad in that time will be a good test for the manager. Having written this, I`m certain that Koscielny will probably trip getting off the coach tonight and land on Johan Djourou and Alex Song, causing a domino effect which results in three sprained ankles and a couple of strained tear ducts. However, I and many others were keen to chide the club doctors and physios when the injury situation was in some tumult, so it stands to reason that it is just as likely that an improvement in this situation is down to them also.LD.

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