So, let’s start the day on the only piece of news available to us. Olivier Giroud has been given a pardon by Arsene Wenger for some of his lethargic performances this season. I’ll cut out the whole piece because it’s interesting.
“Maybe we should have rested him a bit earlier and given him a breather,” Wenger said before Sunday’s visit to Hull City. “For a while, he played maybe too many games. He has gone through a more difficult period recently. It was a bit physical and mental as well with what happened to him.
“But he is a strong, positive guy. He has a great mentality and that’s what I think has got him back. He has scored 20 goals, which is a great record and he is working very hard for the team. The quality of his goal against West Ham gives him confidence again and credibility again for the people who questioned his ability, so that is important.
“It’s difficult up front because every challenge he goes into is physical. He’s not a guy who moves away from people to get the ball; he’s a guy who fights with people to get the ball. When he comes out of the game, he has 50 fights behind him. That is more demanding than the guy who just runs away.”
I find it amazing that we have comments like this at the end of a lot of seasons. Wenger admitted that he didn’t give Robert Pires enough breathing space before he picked up that nasty injury way back when. He admitted he overplayed Jack Wilshere a few seasons ago. Now he’s talking about overplaying Giroud.
Again, there are many facets to how we treat out players. Firstly, there is the lack of rotation Wenger offers up. Playing the same players over an over again leads to physical and mental fatigue. We saw a dip in Ramsey’s form before he picked up an injury. We saw Ozil go off the boil, get injured, go off the boil again and get more seriously injured. We saw Theo briefly before he played all the games in 16 days and went missing for the year. We’ve seen Giroud totally flatline in the second half of the season, that combined with his extracurricular hotel sessions have ruined him.
Then there’s what goes on off the pitch. Arsene likes to have player in training all the time. Over Christmas he had the boys in most of the break. Fine for him, he loves football, but fine for players with young families? Probably not. Mental fatigue. An example of a manager who goes the opposite route is Brendan Rodgers. I can’t remember what the game was, but he recently gave his players a bunch of days off to do whatever they wanted. You’ll remember Sturridge popping up in Dubai with Wilshere. He let the players recuperate, physically and mentally… they came back and destroyed Spurs I think?
Then there’s the training sessions. Clearly, something different is happening at other clubs compared to ours. We have the same time off as Everton, they come out firing on all cylinders and we look dead on our feet. There is something in what we’re doing that doesn’t communicate well into match days. That could be the type of players we have, but look, we weren’t having these problems in the first half of the season. We had no Theo for most of that time period as well. These issues look even crazier when you look at the lack of rotation that goes on at Atletico. Those players are older, their squad is smaller and they’re smashing everyone. What is Diego doing off the pitch to keep that team so fit? Not for me to know… but the club should be asking those questions internally, rather than laying out ‘bad luck’ leaks from Stan… who, coming from America, land of data, should know better.
Then finally, what is the purpose of playing all the young talent in preseason, getting the fans pumped about said young talent coming through, then binning it off when we go into the season. Chuba Akpom, to me, looks a far more accomplished young player to me than Sanogo. He’s not had a look in despite looking great in preseason. Now, I don’t profess to know what he’s like in training, but my point is, if he’s no good, put him out on loan and get him better. What’s he learning at the club right now. Now, Sanogo is clearly a very long way off being near Premier League standard, yet we’re blooding him in European Cup quarter finals. Get him out on loan. Serge Gnabry has disappeared off the scene. Eisfeld might as well leave. For me, Nik B is a better players than Giroud, at worst, he’s the same standard… yet Wenger has driven Giroud into the ground, rather than share the workload with Olivier. It makes no sense to behave like that. Regardless of what you think of Olivier, he’s better when he’s fresh!
… and look, this myth that players like to play every game really doesn’t rub. They want to play every game fresh. They want to be at their best. They don’t want to feel the burn of fans because they can’t play at their best. Players are human beings who need to be looked after better than ever before because of the high intensity nature of the game.
And things have changed when it comes to player output. We know that over the last five years there has been in excess of a 30% increase in high intensity output which means players are sprinting 30% more than they were five or six years ago. It’s not just in the Premier League that that’s happening, is in the Champions League as well – German teams like Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund have raised the bar even higher in the competition. So overall the demands placed on our players are increasing exponentially year-on-year. There are no signs that there will be any let up in that. We therefore know our players will be exposed to, from a risk point of view, greater challenges during games. It’s our job to help prepare them for that and everything we do goes towards supporting the players to cope with the demands of our sport.
The above quote comes from Tony Strudwick, United’s head of fitness and it highlights the speed at which the game is developing. I’d heard that players are now sprinting 80% more than they were 8 years ago. An incredible jump in fitness. An incredible shift in the type of player you now need to succeed.
… so basically, the idea that you expect to win major trophies in tournaments where players have to be at the height of their physical fitness when you flog your best players, really is laughable. Until we get this part of our game right, we’ll always have the same issues. Our starting 11, fresh, is a match for any in Europe. Point is, you can’t win with a starting 11, you need a squad of motivated well rotated players.
I guess the frustrating thing here is that Wenger MUST see what we’re all seeing during the season. He must have known at the start of December too much pressure was being placed on Olivier. In fact, he did, because he said so. Ivan said in September Giroud would need some support. So if a club knows 3 months in advance of December what that case is, why don’t they act in January? And please, don’t tell me ‘the players weren’t available’… you find the ones that are.
Who has a buyout clause?
Which clubs are in trouble financially?
Who isn’t getting a game at a top club?
Who is flouting FFP?
Who is young and talented at a club that couldn’t say no to big money?
People say that buying player isn’t like buying Hovis. Sure, it’s not. But when I buy Hovis, I know when I’ll need it and I know where to buy it. If I can’t get it, I don’t give up. I also wouldn’t leave it to the last minute and call up Lille looking to snap up their mouldy old crumpets. The shame of the January transfer window is that we took all our action to the last week when we made a flurry of moves. We should have been making bids all through December.]
This final quote is an AON quote.
The best predictors of the future are the details of the past. By amassing data and gleaming intelligence from the analysis, the best decisions can be made.
This is my biggest issue. We don’t use data from the past to inform our decisions. If we did, we wouldn’t see the same problems over and over again. It has to change. Wenger has to change.
Right, my piece for today done.
HULL TOMORROW. Have a great Saturday.