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Arsenal: Wenger on injury improvement; Keown praise for Walcott; Welbeck ahead of schedule

Arsenal have been making hay while the sun shines in October, but the month of November has historically been a bad one throughout Arsene Wenger’s reign. Fixtures against Tottenham, Manchester United and PSG are on the horizon and come at a time when Arsenal typically start to suffer numerous injuries.

In his press conference before Saturday’s game against Middlesbrough, Wenger spoke about the improvements Arsenal have made behind the scenes to improve matters on the injury front.

The Gunners hired American fitness coach Shad Forsythe in 2014, who had worked with Germany’s World Cup winning team. The appointment did not reap immediate results, but there is almost a clean bill of health at present. The increased use of data and analytics was also highlighted by Wenger as a key development:

“I believe we have improved on the muscular injuries front tremendously in the last two or three years.

“Last year we were a bit unlucky with the knocks we got and joint injuries as they were down to blocks in the game. Overall on the muscular front I think we have done much better. Hopefully we can continue that.

“It’s not one measure. We analyse the level of fatigue and recovery and the preparation, the prevention…everything is a bit more scientific. Maybe that makes you a little bit more predictable to what could happen.

“We know the players very well now because we have data for a few years, we can analyse when they got injured, the repetition of some signs or warnings. We know them much better.”

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Arsenal didn’t suffer too badly with muscular injuries last season either, but suffered some long-term impact injuries notably to Francis Coquelin and Santi Cazorla. Wenger’s decisions so far this season suggest he has an eye on managing his charges in a more measured way in order to avoid the usual dip in November and/or spring. Mesut Ozil and Laurent Koscielny were left out of the first game of the season against Liverpool, and Olivier Giroud and Aaron Ramsey have been given extended recoveries and held back while Arsenal have a more manageable fixture list.

Elsewhere, Martin Keown has been singing the praises of Theo Walcott in his BBC Sport column and the numbers back him up. The former Southampton man has eight goals in all competitions which puts him top of Arsenal’s goalscoring charts. He already has one more than got in the entirety of last season, and there are a number of contributing factors behind the resurgence. One is the increase in his defensive output which has come from a change of attitude, and that comes from within. Secondly, the clarity regarding his role and position has helped him immensely. Thirdly, Alexis Sanchez is the mobile, roaming forward who is leaving plenty of space for Walcott to exploit, as opposed to the more static Olivier Giroud.

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Finally, Wenger also gave an update on Danny Welbeck’s return from a knee injury. Welbeck suffered another bad cartilage injury away at Manchester City last season, just a few months after returning from a different serious knee injury. Wenger though has said he is ahead of schedule and should be back in January, but stressed that he will need a few months to get back up to speed. The fact that Arsenal have a layer of first team players who haven’t really featured this season bodes well, because they attack the rest of the campaign with fresh legs.

Featured image: All rights reserved by Emrah Partal

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