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Found 4 results

  1. Safe football, will it ever happen? I wrote some time ago about long-term injury in soccer here and concluded that the clubs and the soccer authorities need to do more to make the sport safer. The blog was mostly about life after sport and how professional soccer players have a far greater incidence of serious health problems such as Alzheimers, Dementia, plus Osteoarthritis due to so many operations, than the standard population. Since then I have been following research on the subject of injuries in soccer, and also is there any way to make soccer safer while still retaining its appeal to fans? Does anyone know how to keep adults safe in football? To me it is harrowing. VAR has come in and shown just how much dangerous tackling goes on in football. Often such things passed me by before but the slo-mo replays can show how feet, ankles and legs get targeted by boots flying in and also players getting trod on. The other area is heading where there is often a clash of heads by players going up for balls, and there are also elbows, etc., banging into players and sometimes knocking players out. This can mean dangerous concussions of which the safeguards need to be increased as they can lead to long term damage. A big report with big results A large-scale study conducted by the MLS in America is most revealing in this regard. A full report with a lot of interesting data This was its methodology: Methods: A web-based health management platform was used to prospectively collect injury data from all MLS teams between 2014 and 2019. An injury was defined as an incident that required medical attention and was recorded into the health management platform anytime over the course of the 2014-2019 seasons. Injuries and exposure data were recorded in training and match settings to calculate injury incidence. Results: A total of 9713 injuries were recorded between 2014 and 2019. A mean 1.1 injuries per year per player were identified, with midfielders sustaining the largest number of injuries. The most common injuries were hamstring strains (12.3%), ankle sprains (8.5%), and adductor strains (7.6%). The mean time missed per injury was 15.8 days, with 44.2% of injuries resulting in no days missed. Overall injury incidence was 8.7 per 1000 hours of exposure, declining over the course of the investigation, with a 4.1-times greater mean incidence during matches (14.0/1000 h) than training (3.4/1000 h). Conclusion: Between 2014 and 2019, the most commonly reported injuries in MLS players were hamstring strains, ankle sprains, and adductor strains. Injury incidence during matches was 4.1 times greater when compared with training, while overall injury incidence was found to decline during the course of the study period. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/23259671211055136?icid=int.sj-full-text.similar-articles.9 Is there an alternative to consistent injuries? Which means that virtually every player has to cope with injuries, both short and long term. My point being here is does this have to be inevitable? Is there an alternative? Even Jesus cannot save himself First I must say that these results would be replicated pretty much anywhere professional football is played. If we take Arsenal over the Arteta years, Jesus, Timber, Smith Rowe, Tierney, Nketiah, Tomiyasu, Partey, Martinelli, Elneny and plenty of others if I sat down to really think about it. I have named almost an entire team. Newcastle at the moment have a long injury list but every team suffers from it. Why is there no talk about bringing injuries down to a very low level? That surely should be the starting point, could changing the rules ensure that teams have their first choice players always available so sporting competition is fair? There is no question, this level of injuries threatens the long term future of the game. Will Timber's instant injury blight his career? It seems to me that ground (and just above it) tackling and aerial battles are the two areas that are the most dangerous. Can football survive without both? I think that heading would have to go as how can players necessarily know that other players are going to jump for the same ball? What about tackling consisting only of clean takeaways with both players on their feet? And here I would have to introduce a wildcard and that is jersey pulling. It plays its part in knocking players off balance and at risk of injury and also allowing for elbows as they try to knock away the player dragging them. Yes, most times it is players going down as if dead, clutching their heads even if the elbow missed, but not always. Eyes and heads can be severely hurt. Ah, but what do the fans think? Would we watch it? I don’t know but I feel I would. The ancient art of dribbling would come back as would ball control, accurate passing, and crucially, delays for injuries would be slight, allowing for free flowing football. VAR would have as its role the position of the ball mostly, offside, handballs, etc., so it would cease to be a nuisance. Injury time would be minimal. Referees would have a far easier time as there would be less reason for cards and the constant dissent that is prevalent in modern football would disappear. Ok, football is big business. These changes could severely impact interest in the game and if that is the case the authorities would be dead against it. Fancy playing with this in your leg? I posit that one day they may have no choice. Outside of certain sports, injuries at work are rare, even in so called dangerous areas such as mining and construction, Qatar World Cups aside, of course, And that Qatar experience is perhaps the benchmark of what I am saying. Why did so many people die and get injured in the rush to produce the massive infrastructure for the World Cup? Because Qatar had huge money to invest in it a blind eye was shown to any inconveniences in their own governance and to the death toll involved in building it. Enormous amounts of money were spread about the soccer world to ensure that dissent was stifled. But that was a one off. And it seems like they got away with that one off. Soccer will remain on the injury train? But soccer is ongoing. Injury levels as ascertained in the above report may not be sustainable forever. Will parents continue to encourage their kids to take up a sport where injuries are common and no one wants to change the rules to make them safe? I feel I can safely say that the only way to make football safe is to implement the changes above, no heading, no shirt dragging, no going to ground, no tackling that will cause a player to fall over, no shoulder charges as they are almost never true shoulder charges but rather elbows and pushes. It would be different, for sure, but probably more skillful. Enough to compensate for the lack of physicality? I don’t know. But I can tell you this much. Football needs teams of referees/officials that are not likely to come through at the moment. It is the fouls and the physical challenges that cause the most difficulties for officials/VAR and the greatest frustration for fans watching. In my scenario posited above, with aerial battles gone, going to ground gone and pulling shirts gone, fouls would be very easy to recognise. No need for arguments. Most dissent could be banished. Crucially, players could go about their business without too much worry about serious injury or their long term future with so many screws holding their joints together. A pure football game is the answer I’ll leave you with a quote from Steven Gerrard, one of the greats of English football: “I’m sitting here now with screws in my hips,” said the former Liverpool captain. “I’ve had about 16 operations, I’m struggling to go to the gym at the moment. That’s all on the back of earning a living in English football.” Stevie G. - struggling like an old man because of wild tackles We ask the footballers to continue paying this price. Do we really need to? Can we not even talk about truly making the game safer? Are we certain that without the elements that cause these injuries, the game would not be attractive to the fans? Would vibrant football skill not be enough? Why not?
  2. Eddie at the Crossroads Lots more phone calls required, Eddie Eddie Nketiah’s career has been stop start, for sure. He has always managed to score goals, that is indisputable, particularly for England where he has managed almost a goal a game, 37 in 38 starts. He has 27 in 112 for Arsenal which is not so good but in a huge number of those he came on as a sub, often near the end for a few minutes. His record in cups is good. 39 games and 16 goals and some of those were also as sub. It seems he has now got a chance to make it impossible for Arteta to drop him. If he displaces Jesus that would be amazing. Or could they play together? It doesn’t seem to be in Arteta’s mind and Saka and Martinelli surely won’t make way. Jesus can't make phone calls at the moment I really don’t see him starting both Eddie and Jesus short of an injury to either of our wide-men. Jesus could certainly fill a role on the wing but I really don’t see Eddie doing it. He has that poachers feel about him that Jesus doesn’t have. Jesus wants to do everything, be involved in all the action, a truly modern player, but he is not so prolific. Nketiah always seems to be there when the ball comes in the box. Every match he has chances. I suspect he will score more goals if he stays in that position to the end of the season than Jesus would had he not got injured. Impossible to truly say, of course, but Jesus’ goals tally of 339 club games and 128 goals, and 59 games to 19 goals for Brazil indicate that goal scoring is not his forte. What he does is terrorise teams, creating spaces, winning and receiving balls from everywhere, making him virtually impossible to mark. Arteta will buy him out? I suspect Arteta will buy a striker, if a suitable one becomes available. If he gets put in the team, then Nketiah won’t really get his chance. What then, for him? He must leave. I know he doesn’t want to, like Martinez before him. But Emi waited too long. He should have left well before for the sake of his career. Look at him now, a World Cup winner. Nketiah is in a similar boat, stick or twist. My opinion is that if Arteta buys, then Eddie goes back to the bench. Can he score for the senior squad? He may get 4 more matches to the end of January, Brighton, Newcastle, Spurs and Man Utd. He needs goals and to be dangerous throughout. But they are unlikely to be big scoring matches as they are 4 of the current top 7. Newcastle rarely concede goals. So, that is his task, score goals against the top sides, but also, crucially, Arsenal need to garner many points in these matches. A striker is judged on goals, yes, but also on his team winning. Scoring when losing is not the same as scoring when winning. An unlucky time to be our striker He has a tough task ahead of him. It is hard to see him knocking in too many. It is often said about even big players that they can only score against lesser teams, a charge levelled at our own Thierry Henry, but that is the reality. In the big games, not many goals are scored and even top strikers have run up their tallies with hattricks against small teams. Their record against the best are not so impressive. Assuming that to be so, then Nketiah probably won’t score many in these matches and we will surely drop points in January. Win those 4 and it will be amazing but maybe that’s a fantasy. His position will be shaky if we drop points. Towards the end of last season, he scored goals but the team lost. He is unlucky that it is such a challenging series of matches. Emi - the right decision made him World champion If we buy, I feel that he is sunk. He will never get his chance really as the new guy and the returning Jesus will be in front of him. Will he stay many years as second choice? This season is surely his defining one. Grab this opportunity now or leave for the sake of his career. He is young enough to get his profession back on track. If he stays on like Martinez, then it will be so much harder. I love this guy I like Eddie. He is pure Arsenal, a Hale Ender and one of our own. When he kisses the badge he has the right to do so. Yet he has the right to leave. It may even be the best thing for him. There are lots of top players who never quite made it at Arsenal and I reckon Nwankwo Kanu was probably the best of those. There are many others like Podolski, Pepe, Arshavin, Rosicky, Charlie Nicholas and maybe even my old favourite, Charlie George, who just didn’t nail down a starting position for any long period of time. Sometimes injuries were part of the reason but with Kanu it wasn’t that. Kanu - even as a sub he was voted our 13th best ever player Kanu was with us for six seasons. He played 198 times and scored 44 goals, often as a sub. The thing is, Arsenal were winning trophies and there was one big factor, Dennis Bergkamp didn’t want to fly. Kanu played in an astonishing 53 European matches out of that total and won African footballer of the year twice. He won 2 leagues and 2 FA cups with us. Even as sub, he would come on quite regularly with plenty of time to make an impact unlike what Arteta seems to do with Nketiah. If Wenger wanted a fresh approach then Kanu was brought in. He was, in my opinion, just a shade behind Bergkamp as he was superb. And of course, he played for the Invincibles season. Second choice Eddie? Will Nketiah do the same? Play on when he is second choice? Even if we win trophies? He would certainly strengthen the squad if he does so, as he could pop up with a late goal. But If I was him, I wouldn’t. If he doesn’t hammer down a starting position this year, he should leave. Martinez was right to leave but if I was him I would have done so earlier. In a struggling Villa he is one of their most reliable players. And in a dominant Argentina probably second MVP. He got them their shootouts and Messi must love him. Second string for Arsenal would not have got him first choice at Argentina. Eddie’s career will flounder also as second string. If he doesn’t get his big chance after this difficult period, if someone is bought and replaces him or Jesus is back and Eddie is cast aside, then he has only one choice, I feel. Go, and show that he does have the ability after all. He could well turn out to be the best player never to quite make it at Arsenal. He needs to take that step. Don't replace Harry Kane at Spurs and be better than him Hey, don’t get me wrong. There would be no one happier than me if he finally steps up, makes himself undroppable and becomes an Arsenal scoring legend surpassing Henry’s figures. He is young enough to do that. Maybe though, he might need to leave and become another team’s legend. Best of luck to you, Eddie, if that is what you desire, but please, not the Spuds. Pat Jennings and Sol Campbell came from them to win trophies, but don’t sicken us all by turning the Spuds into a winning team.
  3. Oh dear Jesus, we need you to save us And so we are nearly there. Most likely France vs Argentina and no Arsenal player gets to play this time in the final. Only one of our boys involved in all the four teams left in William Saliba and he doesn’t look likely to play any part in it. I think it is fair to say that it is not a great World Cup for Arsenal. Saka and Xhaka were probably their team’s best players. Turner did great for the States and has come out with his reputation enhanced, surely? Partey was good but Ghana were not so great. Our star star boy Jesus gave us a big setback and here in the Arsenal supporters club there was awful despondency with his exit. Martinelli showed glimpses of his talent but some Brazilians seemed reluctant to give him the ball, seemingly down to rivalry. Once I saw that I got a feeling Brazil would go out. I predicted to several friends that Croatia will give them a hard game and probably win to general scorn from them being convinced it would be a many goal victory for the Samba boys. You need a united team to win a World Cup and, I reckon that Tite felt he no longer had full control and that is why he exited sharply. A manager knows that all players must go through fire for each other despite any personal differences. Brazil, with the most talented squad in the competition, obviously allowed egos to dominate and Tite couldn’t stamp it out. No manager can perform miracles if the players refuse to listen. Brazil deserved to go out. Saka the great, Southgate not so Saka has made excellent strides into cementing his place among the elite players of his generation with most observers putting him at the top of England’s players. I have doubts about Bellingham despite the noise being created about him. He did it against weaker teams. Against France he was anonymous. Southgate is still lauded by England but I have reservations about him. Klopp, I feel is right. He lets the media pick his team. Everyone screamed Foden, he played him. The pundits were saying Bellingham was the greatest midfielder in the world, so he played him. Kalvin Philips played very well whenever picked and I think he was the better option against the French. Bellingham is playing in a Dortmund side that has lost six in fifteen in the Bundesliga, and that league is not as competitive as the Premier league. He may well fulfill his potential but he needs time. Gareth Southgate - does the media pick his beard? The thing is, Southgate, Ben White apart, seems to have the support of his team. He didn’t have to pander to the media. He could have played what he sees as his best team and would have been supported. Bring Bellingham on if he needed to freshen things up. And don’t take off your most effective player when you were still in with a chance of winning the World Cup. Southgate has been very lucky as a manager, mostly getting weaker teams at major championships and that conflates to a heightening of his reputation. I don’t accept him as a good manager. The Ben White situation is an example of why I feel Southgate is overrated. White has not attracted a reputation of being difficult at anywhere he has been, and a player being sent home, or going home voluntarily from a major championship is an extremely rare occurrence. That is down to Southgate, I feel. Jude Bellingham - not the finished product yet Egos are in charge The contrast with Tite, who is dealing with almighty egos in the Brazilian dressing room, is stark. One example is that our own Unai Emery, when coach at PSG, famously said that Neymar is in charge. Players should never be and as Tite picked Martinelli, the players needed to work with him. Tite believed in him as he played him, but other players decided differently. Those players should never be allowed compete for Brazil again unless they accept the manager is in charge. Tite was given an impossible job And what does it all mean for Arsenal? Bring Balogun or Pepe back as backup for Jesus? Can Nketiah step up? Eddie has been training with Jesus and reports suggest that it has improved his game. England’s under 21 all time top scorer, if he reproduces that form, could make it difficult for Jesus to get back in. That is the most optimistic scenario. He does seem a more effective goalscorer than Jesus but Jesus brings an enhanced element of threat with his all round game which has translated into many wins for us. There are rumours of strikers being bought but there always is. Arsenal should be ready Turner and Karl Hein have shown they can truly challenge Ramsdale. That has to be good for our season. Ben White’s difficulty could mean he has a mental challenge to overcome but I feel the Arsenal family will rally around him. Saliba should be fresh unless he gets picked for the last (possible) 2 games but that is unlikely. Centrebacks rarely get subbed. Xhaka and Partey, so essential to our side, look fit and well. Martinelli will be raring to go as always. It could be worse. Olivier just keeps getting better I predicted France at the start in a previous blog and still feel happy. They have a strong defensive structure and that is essential. Their midfielders and forwards are top class and they surely will stop the Morocco dreadnought that has lit up this World Cup. Morocco have done it without kicking and cheating to anywhere near the extent of other teams ( I am looking at you Argentina) but France will probably be too gamewise to let it slip. A sporting World Cup? Argentina have always been thugs without any class and this World cup is no different. Football is a sport and, as such sporting attitudes should prevail. I hope they lose against Croatia. I think that Croatia will more likely lose, though. Argentina will find a way to win. If Croatia does win, even though I have predicted France, I would love to see Morocco go through. I think that only France can stop an unsporting Argentinian team from winning the World Cup, however. Contrast several French players consoling the England ones and the Argentinians sneering at the Dutch. This has been a pretty sporting World Cup, Argentina aside. I still like Emi I will finish with a little tiny bit of praise for myself as a forecaster. So far, since I started predicting what we will do in tournaments, I have done pretty well, generally getting to within 3 points of our eventual tally. And I hope I have got this World Cup right. I will do my next prediction next week and as usual, give you all our scores in advance. That part is a bit of fun, but I do get a lot of results right, if not always the scores. Maybe I should start betting, this Arsenal team still look like a good bet to me.
  4. Can we win the league? Man City Guardiola Manager Possible strongest 11 Ederson Walker Laporte Dias Cancelo Rodri Gundogan Silva De Bruyne Haaland Mahrez Arsenal Arteta manager Possible strongest 11 Ramsdale Tierney Gabriel Saliba/White Tomiyasu Partey Xhaka Odegaard Zinchenko/Vieira/Smith Rowe/Martinelli Jesus Saka Are Arsenal better than Manchester City? And so where are we? Can we compete? I have decided this week to check us out against the champions. Does it look good? Well, before I get to that I have to make a disclaimer that you never really know until a few weeks into a season what the line-ups are. I have had a go at guessing both Arsenal’s and Man City's top 11. I could easily be proven wrong as players pop up every season but I am going on what I know so far. It is surely something like what I am saying. City won't play worse players than these, for sure. Let’s start with Guardiola vs Arteta. Easily Guardiola, he has won everything. Maybe Arteta, over time, can prove to be better, but it will be an extraordinary achievement. One nil to the City boys. Their defence is better Goalkeepers? Ederson is the pick over Ramsdale but at least that competition could swing Ramsdale’s way in the future. He is very good. But few would make that case at the moment. Or would you? Two nil to the Citizens for me. Left back? Tierney vs Cancelo. Cancelo made the Premier league team of 2021-22 and could be the best in his position whereas we don’t know if Tierney is going to start. He could be a great but he badly needs to get over his injury problems as he is such a good player but three nil to the Blues. Right back? Kyle Walker vs Tomiyasu or maybe Ben White. I have to give it to Walker again although this is a bit harder to choose. Cancelo also plays right back as City’s defence is so strong so he would also be better at the moment than any of ours. Four nil to the Blue Mooners and it is all going wrong for us. Kevin Campbell says these are the future Centrebacks? Oh no, not Ruben Dias and Aymeric Laporte? I’m sorry I don’t think so. I don’t see how you could put Gabriel, White or Saliba in front of these two who were in the best Premier league team of 2021-22. Two goals in quick succession from the Man City boys and we are already almost beaten at half time. Six nil to the Sky blues. But these guys are superb Their midfield is better Holding midfielder? Thomas Partey vs Rodri. Honestly, I can’t put Partey in front of the sublime Rodri. Maybe if he stayed fit and reached his full potential it is possible but I defy any Arsenal fan to say Partey here and now. Nightmare as we go seven nil behind to the Etihaders and now we are beaten. Defensive midfielder? Ilkay Gundogan vs Granit Xhaka. Why did I start this exercise? I must like punishing myself. Xhaka is a better player than some of our fans like to admit but he is also a liability, liable to get sent off or give away a penalty. Gundogan is superb and don’t see any genuine contest here either now or in the future. Are we really eight nil behind the Shark Team? Attacking midfielder? Bernardo Silva vs Martin Odegaard. It is a bit more even but 13 goals for Silva, 50 games and Premier league team of the season. Can anyone help me out here? Give me a reason to put Odegaard in front? OMG – nine nil to the Blue boys. Zinchenko better than De Bruyne? Does anyone really think so? Attacking midfielder? Did I say nightmare? This is a zombie apocalypse vampire nightmare. Kevin De Bruyne? Up next, Let’s go home now, crying all the way. I am not sure who will be playing there or even where De Bruyne will be playing but surely not as a false nine with Haaland there now, but it doesn’t matter as none of Vieira, Zinchenko or Smith Rowe can match up to the master. Ten nil to the Gallaghers. Can we match their forwards? Can he set the league alight? Centreforward? Haaland vs Jesus. Maybe, if Haaland struggles with Premier League and Jesus shines like crazy. But both are a bit unproven as Guardiola didn’t really trust Jesus as a nine, often playing De Bruyne as a false nine instead. I have to respect everything Guardiola has achieved but I am going to be generous to us and give Jesus a draw here. I may look very stupid this season but hey, I am used to that. Still ten nil to the Blue side of Manchester. Magic, magic, magic is what we want, boys Winger? Saka vs Mahrez. 24 goals in 47 games for Mahrez against 12 in 43 for Saka last season. Mahrez has won everything but I would love to give it to Saka. I am not sure I would be honest to do so, though. In the future maybe he can overtake him and that would be a great achievement. But eleven nil to the Champions, the irresistible Blue Shark Citizens. Not many players better than this boy Mahrez Judging player by player doesn't win championships - confidence, form and a winning mentality does. Depressing? Yes. It shows what we need. We have potential, they have proven players. Maybe Haaland won’t make it but in all honesty, I expect him to light up the Premier league and score lots of goals. I didn’t include Foden, Grealish and others who will surely get many games but those two for sure would be strong competition for our best players. I asked a question at the start and the answer has to be no, judging by the players we are up against. I could do the same against Liverpool and get another bad result I suspect. We are probably close to City in some positions but definitely behind in others. We need our players to step up, to play without fear, and take the game to the opposition. We need a bit of luck, we need momentum, and a good consistent start. Crystal Palace haven’t liked doing us favours in recent years and we need to change that. Let Patrick win other matches, not ours. Then Leicester, Bournemouth, Fulham and Villa for August. Maximum points and we are ready to frighten them all, maybe even Guardiola and his supremos. Forget the depression, Gus, Arsenal are the greatest football team!
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