Arsene Wenger admits he does not have the answer. After 18 years at Arsenal he has scrutinised every detail and sought to move with the changing times but there are still moments when he feels stumped.
The manager addressed the issue yet again in the build-up to tonight's Champions League match with Galatasaray at the Emirates Stadium and it is fair to say it is one that touches a nerve at the club. It is not the quest to triumph in Europe's elite competition; to win the one major trophy to elude Wenger – rather to offer a satisfactory explanation for how the squad always seem to be carrying so many injuries.
Wenger will be without nine first-team players against the 19-times Turkish champions while a 10th, Jack Wilshere, is not expected to be risked from the start in light of the ankle knock he took in the 1-1 draw with Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday. But Wilshere travels.
Wenger confirmed Aaron Ramsey would be out for about four weeks and Mikel Arteta for three weeks. The midfielders picked up the problems in the derby and they have joined Olivier Giroud, Theo Walcott, Mathieu Debuchy, Nacho Monreal, Yaya Sanogo and Serge Gnabry on the injury list.
Wenger also suggested Abou Diaby, who played for 67 minutes in the League Cup defeat by Southampton last Tuesday, had suffered a setback. "I've left Diaby out because he's not completely there yet," he said.
But Ramsey’s latest injury is a different story. Wenger was beside himself with frustration after the game against Tottenham as to how Ramsey could have felt the hamstring pop, having rested him against Southampton and given him a “light” week of training.
“We are getting things together . . . different opinions, what happened to him. Because it’s a real concern,” said Wenger.
The problem, coupled with that for Arteta, has turned the spotlight back on Arsenal’s injuries and, specifically, those that relate to muscle pulls or tears. The club have suffered from impact injuries – in other words, those that have been caused by challenges – but they have also endured a larger-than-average number of muscular problems.
Wenger considered the situation to be serious enough to warrant an overhaul of practices in the summer. How great were the changes?
Shad Forsythe, the fitness coach who worked with Germany at the World Cup finals, has been hired and there have been plenty of minor adjustments, such as looking at a player's workload leading up to matches. It has also been noticeable that the substitutes have been sent out to warm up much more during games.
Wenger was asked whether the pitch at the Emirates might even be the problem. “Could be, you don’t rule anything out,” he replied, before resorting to his lighter touch. “Look, even if we look at it [the pitch], you have to play on it until the end of the season.”
The manager has been questioned repeatedly over his training techniques, in terms of whether the sessions are sufficiently intense to prepare the players for the explosiveness of the Premier League.
“When you work on the prevention for injuries, it’s a question mark: ‘Why do you get the injuries?’ We know a lot more than 18 years ago when I arrived but still not enough to predict 100 per cent scientifically what happens to everybody.” Guardian Service