Life’s a pitch

I don’t know if you watch The Breakdown on Arsenal.com. Presented by Adrian Clarke, it usually takes a look back at our last league game, reviewing the performance, where things went wrong or right etc. It’s often more interesting when we lose because there’s more to analyse, but still.

This week, because there was no game, Adrian did a show which provided a tour of the training ground. We saw the gym, the dressing rooms, the indoor arena and, of course, the pitches. The guide was the facilities manager Sean O’Connor, and they spoke about each player having around eight pairs of boots because of the difference in pitches at various grounds. O’Connor said:

The Emirates pitch being a Desso pitch, different surfaces require a different kind of boot.

Adrian then asked about the training ground pitches, O’Connor said:

We have ten of the very highest standard fields. Of the ten we have five fields which mirror the Emirates, identical Desso fields. Desso is the newest surface that’s available, 95-98% real grass, with an added 2-3% of synthetic fibres mixed in. It makes the pitches very hard wearing and gives you those tip-top carpets you see week in, week out.

But, it was the next bit which stood out for me. Asked if Arsenal were leading the way in using these kind of pitches, O’Connor said:

We’re definitely leading the way in grass, no doubt about it. No teams have the Desso pitches installed at their training grounds …

light_bulb

So, we are the most injury prone team in the league and the one thing that sets us apart from all the other team is the pitches we use at the training ground and at the Emirates. It’s long been mooted that this could have been a factor. Now, maybe I’m being a bit simplistic, and I’m sure it’s something they’ve considered, but I wonder how, if this was earmarked as a potential issue, they can have analysed it properly.

If we’re the only team currently using this set-up at our training ground and stadium, do we have anyone to compare it to? For example, if another club in the league had an identical stadium and training facility and didn’t suffer the same amount of injuries, then we could say it’s probably something else. As it stands, it seems that this could be a contributory factor.

I’m sure there are ways and means of looking into this despite our uniqueness, and I still think it’s more likely to be a combination of things rather than one smoking gun, but this didn’t half stand out when I watched the piece. View for yourselves here.

Update: @Gooselessgander on Twitter pointed me in the direction of this story about Man Utd installing Desso pitches. Is it just coincidence that they’re now riddled with injuries? I guess if we see the players at PSG and Bayern start dropping like flies then we’ll know more.

Further update: It seems loads of clubs use Desso pitches (via @Goonarchy). So maybe we’re the only ones using the latest version or something. Either way, weird.

Meanwhile, it’s emerged that Mesut Ozil was injured before half-time in the defeat to Chelsea, but was allowed to continue despite hearing a ‘crack’ in his knee. Now, while it’s normal for me, sitting at a desk all day, to hear my knee and other bits of me crack when I get out of my chair, I’m 43 and not, it’s fair to say, a top level athlete. I would posit that when it does happen to a professional footballer in the middle of a game, then it’s probably in everyone’s best interests to take it a bit more seriously than we seem to have done.

Arsene Wenger said:

I said to our physio to keep an eye on him and if there was anything wrong with him, tell me because when you’re 1-0 down, you want to keep your offensive players on the pitch. It’s very hard to believe that you can damage your ligament with just making a simple pass and it’s very difficult to take that he will be out for a while.

I suppose the issue isn’t really whether it’s hard to believe but that it happened – how an injury occurs isn’t really relevant once it has. Now, in mitigation, I’m sure there was a discussion about it. Ozil will have been asked if he felt ok to continue and obviously said yes, but then that’s what players who want to play often do. They’ll understate the significance of a problem because they want to be out on that pitch.

The reason you have highly trained medical staff is so that they can take an objective view of things and make a decision on what’s best for the player. There may well have been pressure from the manager to keep him on as he is a £42.5m playmaker, but on the day it was obvious to anyone watching that Ozil was struggling to make any kind of impact on proceedings.

So it makes it even more difficult to understand why the manager played him for the full 90 minutes, knowing he had an injury, while taking off Santi Cazorla who was fully fit. It’s not as if he was having to withdraw a guy who was bossing the game. On that day the impact of Ozil’s substitution probably wouldn’t have been a net negative in terms of how we played as a team.

As I mentioned above, our injury issues are likely to be down to a number of factors, but surely management of them from the sidelines and from a medical point of view is one of them. On this occasion it looks like we took a gamble, and it hasn’t paid off. Maybe he would have been out 10-12 weeks anyway, but it’s hard not to think the damage was exacerbated by playing him for the full game.

Elsewhere, ahead of the AGM, a good read from A Cultured Left Foot on ticket prices and the never-ending upward spiral. No doubt that question will be asked today. Whether there’s any acceptable answer to it is another thing. How, when you’ve received a massive influx of television money on top of hugely increased commercial revenues, you can justify putting up ticket prices is beyond me, but I’m interested to hear how they try.

We’ll be covering the event via Twitter over on @arseblognews, so follow for live updates on all the goings on, and we’ll have more about it on tomorrow’s Arsecast.

Until then.

Pic via Flickr.

 

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