Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Tuesday bits: Neto, AFCON, Tomiyasu + caution on Timber

Morning all.

The Arsenal players have a few days off after our win over Crystal Palace, due to the fact we don’t play again until next Tuesday. If the Dubai trip was a nice break, it was also a lot of hard work, and this is realistically the last chance to give the lads a few days to rest/recharge between now and the end of the season. If we remain involved in a title chase, and continue our European campaign, it is going to be hectic, so any opportunity to conserve some energy is probably worth taking.

I watched Brighton versus Wolves last night. Not a particularly exciting game by any means, but I thought long-time Arsenal target Pedro Neto was pretty lively. His pace in behind is such an effective weapon, and his final ball was usually pretty good – unfortunately their forwards were not on the right wavelength. I know he’s had his injury issues, but as a player who could operate on both wings and provide quality depth/cover for Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli, he’d be well up there on my list.

Elsewhere, reports that Mohamed Salah’s injury picked up at AFCON is worse than feared don’t fool me. He has a hamstring problem, but with our home game against Liverpool looming, I fully expect him to be available for them. Even if he’s also available for Egypt. Somehow he will be in both places at once.

Egypt, without Mohamed Elneny in the side for their last game, have qualified for the knock-out stages, drawing 2-2 with Cape Verde yesterday, a result which leaves those sides first and second in the group. Egypt’s three draws give them 3 points to Cape Verde’s 7, and they go through by the skin of their teeth. It looked as if Ghana would finish above them, but from being 2-0 up in 90th minute, they conceded two injury time goals to Mozambique to end up third in the group. Blimey.

There are games over the next two days which will decide who goes through as best of the third placed teams, but it looks iffy for Ghana and for hosts Ivory Coast who got battered 4-0 by Equatorial Guineau. I haven’t been following AFCON too closely, in all honesty, but it does look as if there have been some real shock results throughout.

Meanwhile, Japan’s progress in the Asian Cup will be decided tomorrow when they take on Indonesia. A draw would be enough to see them go through, and that would mean Takehiro Tomiyasu being absent for another week or so, at least. Reports this morning that Arsenal are targetting a ‘versatile defender’ before the end of the January window may be partly informed by Tomiyasu’s involvement in this tournament but whatever happens he’ll be back mid-February at the latest.

Reports about the potential return of Jurrien Timber continue to be conflicting. At the heart of it there’s a consistency in that he appears to be making good progress, and that’s obviously a positive thing, but quite when he’ll be ready for first team action again remains to be seen. He had surgery on his ACL on August 16th, and it’s now just a little over five months since that point.

Just to try and put that into context with regards other Arsenal men who have had the same injury in the not too distant past, here are a couple of examples.

Rob Holding

Suffered ACL injury: Dec 5th 2018
Returned to action: Sep 24th 2019
Days out: 294

Hector Bellerin

Suffered ACL injury: Jan 19th 2019
Returned to action: Sep 24th 2019
Days out: 267

Calum Chambers

Suffered ACL injury: Dec 29th 2019
Returned to action: Nov 10th 2019 (U21s) : Dec 3rd (first team)
Days out: 318 / 341

Momahed Elneny’s knee injury last year was never officially confirmed as an ACL, but I believe that’s what he suffered in January 2023. He returned to action in September, a period of 262 days between injury and his first appearance back.

None of the other Premier League players who picked up one of the spate of August ACLs, such as Emi Buendia, Tyrone Mings or Wesley Fofana, are being touted as close to a return right now. Real Madrid’s Thibaut Courtois, who did his ACL in early August, spoke recently about his potential comeback, and ruled himself out of Euro 2024, saying, “If I am lucky, I will be able to play a game in May. But I will never be 100% prepared for a big tournament.”

So, while every player is different, and some heal quicker and better than others, it’s only been 161 days since Timber’s injury. Even another month barely comes close to the usual minimum time-period players take recover from what is one of the most serious injuries they can sustain. If Mikel Arteta sounded cautious when talking about him the other day, it’s probably just common sense.

He said:

At the moment he is still very, very far from competing. That’s the reality of it. We’re hopeful that he can have an impact at the end of the season, if everything goes well, and it looks like there is a chance that that might happen but I think it’s too early to make that call.

So, if Arsenal are after a defender this month, it’s probably linked to Timber more than anything else. Not just his absence, but an arrival might ensure that there’s no rushing him back because we find ourselves in a situation where we’re just a little bit desperate. The reality of an ACL injury is a fairly consistent recovery and rehabilitation period across the board, and unless something verging on miraculous is happening with him, I don’t expect to see him for a while yet.

Righto, that’s it for this morning. There’s an Arsecast Extra for you in all the usual podcast places, and we’ll have an episode of The 30 for you over on Patreon a bit later on.

Have a good one.

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