You can keep denying the reality of human physiology, but look, it doesn’t care what you did in the nineties and it’ll stab you with a stubborn blade when you’re not looking and leave you and your title aspirations in a crumpled miserable heap if you keep disrespecting it.
Arsenal have managed their players fitness badly this season. We firstly didn’t add enough depth to the squad in the summer despite knowing the realities of our injury prone players. Secondly, the manager seemed to have forgotten why his players were so good in the back half of last season… namely, he broke all his key players in the first half of last season, so they were very well rested for the run in. Thirdly, the manager refuses, despite a shit tonne of first hand experience, to give his players a break.
I am a layman. I understand the basics of football and rotation. I understand that the Premier League is the most physical and intense league in the world. I understand that footballers are humans and if you don’t rest them, they start to play badly, then they fatigue, then they break.
It’s really simple.
Something else that, as a manager, you should consider… because look, bloggers aren’t the normal go to point for advice.
When a player picks up a slight injury, this is a warning sign.
“Sanchez had a little hamstring alarm but we will see how he recovers from that” (Wenger last week)
Not only is Sanchez over-played, he’s probably the player with the most air-miles on the clock this year and he’s one of the few who played in pretty much every game in the Copa America. Factor in the ridiculous intensity our Chilean superstar insists on playing at… well, you get the picture. He really shouldn’t have been playing today and even if he cried like a baby to get a start, the manager should be strong enough to see the long term impact a fresh Sanchez has to the side.
So the disaster that was today started out with Koscielny picking up an injury, apparently to the hip. Hip is one of those bollocks injuries that could be a week or it could be three months. That meant a game for Gabriel, who, after we took the lead through a lovely Ozil finish, conspired with Aaron Ramsey for an unjust equaliser.
Aaron allowed his man Brady inside him, our defence, primed deep for what they thought would be a cross allowed a goal side turn and poke home from 8 yards. Real car crash defending from Gabriel, but for me, the issue started with the amateur play from Aaron.
Things didn’t really pick up from there, Norwich had some pretty incredible chances to go ahead as we lost our minds in defence.
The injuries weren’t done. Alexis pulled up with a hamstring issue. If it’s grade one, we might see him back for Man City in 3 weeks, if it’s grade two we won’t see him until next year. That’s a real problem, I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that.
We also had a panics with Santi Cazorla who took a strike to the leg, with Wenger saying after the game he walked in on one leg.
Our subs weren’t exactly brimming with confidence. We brought on Chamberlain and Joel Campbell to chase the game and to say their impact was tepid is an understatement.
To sit and watch Norwich attack with more purpose is pretty disappointing, but when you lose your talisman and you’re introducing players a long way off the top of their game, you can understand why heads drop.
So we finished up 1-1. That’s pretty disappointing, but not because the points are the issue (even though we’ve dropped 4 easy points in two games), more because the long-term impact of losing the spine of your starting 11 will certainly affect your ability to challenge long-term.
Never thought I’d find myself saying I miss Theo through the middle, but I do. Luckily we might have him on the bench for the Olympiacos game in a week and a bit. Oli just isn’t there as a striker. He’s reverted to throwing himself at players to make it look like he’s contributing. There was a nice cross into the box that he couldn’t keep under the bar… exactly the sort of miss he makes under pressure, exactly the difference between world-class and what we have. We need a striker with power and pace… we had nothing to attack with when we were chasing the three points. Nothing new though, nothing new.
He’s hit the skids. He’s been garbage the last two games. His attacking prowess has diminished and he’s making rookie mistakes. He looks tired and his legs look heavy. Not surprising either, because he plays all the games and he’s young. Really feel like we should be looking to rotate Debuchy back to form so there’s an option to rest the Spaniard.
The frustration here is that it’s so obvious. How much more data does the manager need; over how long a period, before he’ll start managing fitness properly. Even his pal Billy Beane is saying that keeping players fit longer is the new frontier in football analytics. That Sanchez injury was so obviously coming… he twinged himself last week. Why is our manager so unbelievably short-term with his team selections? Sure, we’ve got to win against Norwich, but surely our squad should be able to handle a rest against a team who have lost 5 of their last 6 games?
Add into the mix that Santi is into his thirties and he never gets a rest… Ozil plays every game. I mean, we are a disaster this season with player breakdowns and the manager just won’t listen to data, logic, professionals or look at his own vast experience of breaking players to make better informed decisions.
Look, I’m not a fan of Joel Campbell, but he had a very good game in the week and he was dropped straight to the bench for a Ramsey clearly short of match fitness. What does that do to the players confidence? It kills it and it tells the player you have no faith in them even if they play well and that you’d prefer an unfit player in their place. We have similar problems with Chambo. The manager doesn’t trust him which makes him play even worse.
This attitude to squad rotation is so bad for squad mentality… when we need to call on players, they feel out the loop and neglected which affects their confidence and their form. This happens all the time. We freeze players out until an injury happens, then the player coming in doesn’t perform and we all wonder why. You need to love your squad if you want it to work for you.
We are only a few points off the top. We have two pretty damn easy games coming up. We need to survive those and see where we are going into the City game. They looks shaky. We’ll have most of our squad back for that pending no more nightmares. Then we need to wrestle our way into January and make a much needed splash.
We’re letting this season escape us again and sadly, it’s once again because the manager doesn’t seem to correlate his poor decisions with our fitness issues.
… still, what’s new, he’s an old school manager with a stubborn view of what you have to do to win the league. It’s a shame that view is so baked in 2004 because this season can be rescued with a bit of purpose and some brutal self assessment from our internal teams.
Fingers crossed for the broken ones…