December is here, and once again we've had a weekend where Arsenal picked up more injuries than points. But is it really the nightmare before Christmas for Arsene Wenger?
The answer most people would give is a resounding yes, but while it's very easy to label Arsenal as the league's crock club, are the injuries really indicative of this?
The stats certainly don't come to that conclusion as we see a completely different picture. This is something Wenger may be keen to convey to concerned fans.
- Injuries during the 2015-16 season in the Premier League show Arsenal to be seventh in the division with 24, which is only slightly above the league average (20.5), while their total is well behind the likes of Man City (35), Man United (31) and even Liverpool (25) who are also in the race for the top spot. Their key players have suffered recently and they will be without four of Wenger's 10 outfield starters (Alexis Sanchez, Francis Coquelin, Santi Cazorla and Theo Walcott) this weekend.
- Out of those 24 injuries, only 11 have lasted 10 or more days, which represents less than half of their total (46 percent.) Again, this falls well below their Premier League rivals -- Man City on 20 (57 percent), Tottenham 16 (72 percent) and Liverpool 18 (76 percent). In fact only a handful of teams have a better record -- Leicester, Norwich, Southampton, Swansea, and West Brom.
- The total days missed this season also tells a story. At a meagre 312 days, Arsenal fall way below the Premier League average (369.6) and when directly compared to Man City (546), Liverpool (656) and Spurs (520). Even Chelsea have suffered more cumulatively days (314) with players out.
Across a number of key performance indicators, Arsenal fall below the league average and below those of their nearest rivals. This all helps to paint a completely different picture of the season so far and dispel many myths behind the perceived tale of injury woe.
Out of the current crop of crocked stars (10) the majority are targeting a return within the next month. Only Francis Coquelin and potentially Santi Cazorla are expected to be missing past January. They will ease some of the pressure over the festive period when games come thick and fast. But where does this leave Arsenal in the long term?
There has been a steady improvement over the past few seasons. The total number of days lost to injury was down around 15 percent between 2013-14 and 2014-15, while figures from the same period last season show just how much Arsenal have improved.
- Number of injuries are down by (55 percent).
- Those injuries lasting 10 or more days have been reduced by more than half (54 percent).
- Significantly the total number of days lost to injury has seen the biggest drop from over 1200 days to a little over 300.
This downturn coincides with the arrival of American Shad Forsythe, a certified strength and conditioning specialist. The former U.S. Olympic coach is considered one of the world's top fitness trainers who helped transform the German national team into World Cup winners.
Forsythe's expertise and guidance along with the Arsenal back room team is beginning to produce the results the club were hoping for following his appointment in July last year.
During the second half of the 2014-15 season, injuries were reduced significantly when compared to the first 19 games, dropping by 32 percent. Arsenal won 15 of their 21 league matches from Boxing Day (D3, L3), a run which returned more points than champions Chelsea (+3) and second placed Man City (+8).
That was an average increase of 0.47 points per game, which if repeated may just be enough to help bring the Premier League title back to the Emirates.