A quick look at the Physio Room English Premier League Injury Table, a sanctuary for Arsenal fans pining to see their team at the top of a table, shows you that there are loads of premiership footballers currently injured. There is of course a huge range of injuries from the serious cruciate ligament injuries to the simple (if opaque) “ankle injury”.
The serious ones I have no problem with, you can’t play football with a broken leg, but are all these ankle and groin injuries really that bad? Whenever a player pulls up with a muscle twinge he is instantly removed and not seen for a few weeks (months if he is Czech and plays for Arsenal.) The commentator chips in with, “you can’t afford to risk it with a hamstring/groin/calf strain.” And it is an unwritten rule in professional football that the moment you feel your muscle you stop, and nobody says anything to the contrary.
But I disagree; I have played football for 15 years and never miss a game for a muscle strain. I once had a groin strain that I hurt every week for about six months but I rarely came off and I never missed the next week’s game. Is it just me or do injuries not really hurt when you are engaged in an on field battle? Ledley King seems to do all right, a chronic knee injury that means he can’t train more than once a week but he still manages to put in an assured performance once a week sacrificing the rest of the week for 90 minutes at the weekend. But other players don’t do this, they go through a few weeks of no training, then slowly start building their fitness, then feel a twinge in their “injured” area then take more time off before a month later managing to play 60 minutes of football and telling us the injury is a bit sore after but felt great during the game, of course it bloody did! And it would have if you had played the week after incurring the injury too.
It has always been common knowledge in my teams who plays through pain and who embraces the time off that comes with injury, I wonder if this is the same in the Premiership and if so how can managers allow it?
If you look at that table (it is useful for fantasy football) you will always see Arsenal at the top and Man City near the bottom. Both teams have large squads, contrary to what Mancini might want his owners to believe, but city always have fewer players out, and usually they have closer return dates. Why is this? Are Arsenal’s physios much worse than City’s? I doubt it. Danny Taylor’s recent piece in the Guardian, comparing Roberto Mancini to Alex Ferguson, cites Wayne Bridge lamenting the Italian’s impatience with injured players: he thinks they should be training and if they aren’t going to train he completely isolates them. Following Jack Wilshere on twitter he seems to be quite enjoying his time in the physio room, he can get massages with Sagna, catch up with his old team mates Afobe and Henderson and meet celebrities like David Beckham and Roger Federer during matches, all this whilst picking up a tidy wage.
I’m not saying Wilshere is faking or Wenger doesn’t want to get him and Sagna back to fitness but it seems to me that a lot of Arsenal’s injury problems might be caused not just by the number of players out injured at any time, but by the time each of those players is granted off each time.
Mancini seems to have a similar idea to me about these “injured” players, the proof will be in the run-in: if these players have been rushed back and really needed an extended break it may cost City the title, on the other hand should their ability to put out the same team that has helped them thus far then Mancini’s obstinacy may win it for them.