Injuries derailed Arsenal’s Top Four fight, not the January window

Why injuries DO make the difference by John Velez

For those who will either: skim through this, take it out of context, or not even read it, before going into attack mode in the comments for it being a supposedly pro Arteta article, I have added this prefix just for you guys – WE HAD A BAD JANUARY TRANSFER, AND IT WAS THE FAULT OF ARTETA AND THE BOARD. I hope that is clear and concise enough!

Barring a miracle in the final round of league fixtures, Arsenal will miss out on the Champions League this season. Although I do not miss the CL, it would have been very useful at this point in our rebuild, in regards to signing our first choice targets, along with the extra finances.

So what happened? We were performing well, winning lots of games, Arsenal and Arteta were the talk of the town, then a sudden drop off in performances, but more importantly, results. Well it couldn’t have been our poor January transfer window because the window was closed at that point, and we had been doing very well.

The main issue affecting our top four hopes was key injuries at a key point in the season. Injuries are part and parcel of the game, but almost any team would suffer with medium/long-term injuries to key players, especially at the back end of a season when you cannot sign replacements. City and PSG are probably the only exemption to the rule, given the abundance of talent they have two or three times over in some positions.

For the rest of us, key injuries will derail most teams. Pickford has been in unbelievable form of late, and Richarlison has been vital upfront for Everton. Take either one of those out, or even both for the last couple of months, and I expect they could have already been relegated.

In relation to Arsenal, would Spurs currently be in 4th if Kane had missed the last few months? Would Spurs even be in the top 6 if both Kane and Son were injured for a while? Spurs had a far better January transfer window than us, no key injuries, and yet are only a couple of points ahead of us.

Of course it’s subjective, no one can predict results based on who is or isn’t available, but if we hadn’t had so many key injuries, I highly suspect we would have covered that 2 point gap to Spurs, and much more to boot, irrespective of what happened in January.

To highlight the importance of key players, just think of Norwich vs Spurs this weekend. We need Spurs to lose, which is highly unlikely. Now if Son and Kane were missing for that fixture, suddenly we all feel a lot more confident. Probably still wouldn’t happen given how terrible Norwich are, but no doubt Spurs’ chances of victory would be severely lessened. Conte suddenly would have a huge problem on his hands.

For certain positions, we could have covered injuries without a big loss in quality. E.g. ESR would come in for Martinelli/Odegaard, Elneny for Xhaka, Leno for Ramsdale, an inform Pepe for Saka, and so on. But for certain positions, we couldn’t afford major injuries, and that’s what happened. Losing a key player is very difficult to cover for.

The drop off in quality between Tierney and Tavares is astronomical! Partey is our only genuine world class player, who would also walk into ANY top team, and Elneny and Lokonga are lightyears away from his level. Losing Tomiyasu for something like 3 or 4 months was a massive blow as well, with Cedric being our only backup. To lose both your full-backs and your main central midfielder all at the same time, has had a massive effect on the way we play as well!

This is also nothing new at Arsenal. Just think of how many campaigns under Wenger were derailed because of key injuries. Even the same happened to Emery. He finished 5th only 2pts off 3rd place, with a crippling injury list. He had 3 season ending injuries at around the halfway point that season, along with lots of other shorter injuries to deal with. Like with Arteta, we definitely would have qualified for the Champions League under Emery if it wasn’t for so many injuries.

Of course, it’s not to say we didn’t have a bad January, because we did! We let too many leave, and signed no one! That is on Arteta and the board. If we had kept AMN and signed at least a quality DM/CM or striker, we could have coped with the injuries better, although, like with the injuries, it would still be subjective as to whether or not any new signings would have meant better results.

January has definitely played a role this season, and should be part of the conversation of where did it go wrong for us? I am merely pointing out that whilst everyone under the sun keeps mentioning our transfer activity, barely anyone is talking about the negative effect of losing so many key players at such a key point of the season. As I have already pointed out, even with these injuries, we’re only 2pts off Spurs with one game to play. That says to me, we would have finished 4th, possibly even 3rd, regardless of January, if it wasn’t for so many injuries.



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  1. Lack of rotation results in injuries

    Not having a sufficiently fit squad results in injuries

    Not having a big enough squad means too little cover for potential injuries.

    There’s a reason so many fans here called it the second the January window closed, because it was a completely foreseeable and viable situation for us to end up in. To say “regardless of January” makes absolutely no sense.

    1. Letting better players leave this club without replacement or worse replacements like, Auba, Gouendouzi, Saliba, Bellerin and AMN on loan or given away. And it goes back to last season also.

    2. Don’t think it’s about not having a big enough squad, but about the lack of quality on the bench. Like the article says, the quality of our bench is well below standard. Going from Tierney, Partey, Tomi and White to Tavares, Elneny/Sambi, Cedric and Holding just is too much of a downgrade. Especially all at once.

      We shouldn’t have let AMN leave, should’ve bought a new striker, better back-up leftback and a better back-up DM/CM, but that is what this transfer period is for.

      People expect too much, too soon. There is progress, slow but steady. To rebuild a club, it takes time or a shitload of money. As we don’t have the latter, we should be patient. People focus too much on the negative, but look at our squad. We have the youngest squad in the league and we wil continue too add, I’m sure of it

      1. We should stop this nonsenses about having the youngest squad in the league – that impresses no one. Who stopped Arsenal from buying experienced players? It was a deliberate policy from the owners who wanted to build very gradually. They wanted younger players because they are cheap. We are about to sign a 19 year old Brazilian – what for!! why can’t we buy an experienced winger instead.

        1. Buying experience worked out well in the past, didn’t it? I’d rather have the next RvP, Nasri, Cesc, Koscielny, Martinelli, etc than the next Pepe, Lacazette, Mustafi, etc.

          Yes, it was a deliberate policy from the owners. Exactly my point, thanks. At least they understand that coming from where we came, you need to have a long term policy over instant succes. Spending shitloads of money did wonders for United the past years.

          There are only a few clubs that can spend that much to have instant succes. We are not one of those clubs and people need to get realistic about that. We have to do it with smart deals, focussing on youth and developing players. Getting 5th in only our second year of the rebuild is good, but people fail to see it unfortunately as they are too focused on instant succes.

          But I know I belong to the minority that sees it this way on this website, but I will continue to look at it this way. We are no PSG, that can spend €222m on a player, or City that spends a close to a bil on defence, please get real people.

  2. I think your points of course are correct – key injuries of course had a huge impact, however that doesn’t mean that the impact of those injuries could have been lessened by signings in the January window.
    The most obvious one is probably Bruno G, who we surely could have signed – that’s a player who could have mitigated the loss of partey somewhat, and longer term become a starter in a very good side next to partey.
    The other obvious one is the striker situation – we needed a forward with goals in them. Even if injuries were more impacting in other areas of the team, strengthening up front could have counteracted those weaknesses to a great extent.
    It was exactly the same when wenger was in charge, as you say, and he was also criticised for not strengthening adequately in January – it may well have cost him at least one more PL title, but who can really say.
    The other thing to say in favour of the article is that it usually is much more difficult to get good players in January. Aside from Bruno G, I’m not sure who we could have got in truth, just have to believe that if we’d done enough homework, we could have got someone, we just seemed to be locked onto Vlahovic, who’s made it clear he wouldn’t join us

  3. How I love this article and its full context! I am coming to admire the welcome and deep thinking articles by Jonbo more and more. Some who are anti MA, will say I think this only because I endorse EVERY word in this excellent piece . Well, I cannot combat that sort of shallow “thinking,so will not even try.
    I remain afirm MA supporter – even though I agree with almost everyone, whatever their conclusion on whether he should remain our manager, which I DO, of course,that he has made many judgement mistakes during his timew here.
    Nor do I thibnk him as yet anywhere near the quality of Guardiola Klopp, Tuchel or even Conte. But I factor in our owner and the reality that he will never attract such as I LIST HERE.
    WENEED, ABOVE ALL, TO BE REALISTS . I AM ONE . Are you who are reading this though?

    1. to paraphrase oscar wilde i hate vulgar realism in football … it is tantamount to the wilful acceptance of a failed process that never ends well … macnamara was a self professed realist in charge of US strategy in Viet Nam … you might not remember but it didnt end well either … being blind to the obvious limitations of arteta as a manager on the grounds of the owners pulling power is nonesense … i would love to see him depart for sure as we are just a financial asset for the man but he did allow edu to spend 75 m on pepe thats klopp`s salary for 5 or 6 years!!!! klopp was not out of reach nor was conte … ancellotti went to everton for gods sake … is MA capable of taking us back to the CL next season? no more than Allardyce … its soley on those grounds he needs to go … we need magic not realism … as a theater man you should know that

      1. RW1, TRUE realism is never vulgar but extremely necessary. My post made very clear that I have NEVER been blind to the mistakes MA has made – and there have been many, as , being a realist, I always expected – BUT there have also been many welcome changes in direction of management style and achievement when compared with the harmful “anything goes, rather than challenge and force out LAZINESS” style of Wenger in particular and to a lesser extent, Emery too.

        My personal life and football philosophy is this: Top league players are obscenely overpaid and while we may choose to hold our noses and “accept” this awful reality, PROVIDED THAT players give their absolute all in each and every game, when they REFUSE to honour the moral contract they sign in retirn for obscenely ludicrous wages, to give their ALL for the team, then they are cheating both the club AND we fans. Not to even mention their own future career too.

        I have always known this because I AM A TRUE REALIST, RW1.
        That is precisely WHY I many times called out that arch cheat Ozil and was thrilled ( and i use that “thrilled” accurately)when this astute manager MA got rid of him. (Like wise about the idle, self centred Auba and the brat Guendouzi) Five years too late about Ozil IMO, but that was on Wenger and to a lesser extent Emery too.


        It is you who do not understand what true realism actually is, when applied to AFC; whatever your knowledge of Vietnam, which is beside the point and irrelevant to we on here.

          1. very astute points RW1, unfortunately your audience was unable to comprehend your very logically-framed analogy

    2. Oh my lord Mr Jon fox. Is this the new you with agreeing with comments on here 😃.
      I have stuck my neck out on on more then one occasion and supported the team and our manager.
      A manager learning his trade maybe at the expense of us finishing 4th but 90 minutes left of the season so let’s see.
      Made some nieve and maybe incompetent decisions during the season in my opinion but what did we really expect after he inherited a bag full of rubbish contrary to what some will say about how much money we have spent on new players come in. It was the old one who we needed to shift that didn’t wear the badge with pride so good riddance to bad rubbish.
      As for the Jan transfer window being bad for us Rubbish. No one can legislate for key areas (back 4) being torn apart by long term injuries and suspensions. If they did then they need to be our manager and tell and tell mE the next 6 numbers for the lottery tonight please.
      So many on here were predicting 8th again and lower after the first 3 games so MA has done pretty well to keep us in the fight with 1 to go.
      I am gutted, hurt and totally frustrated that we let it slip as it was it was in our own hands and now we have to wait on other results but overall a so called bad Jan hasn’t put us in this position.
      Fair play to GAi who predicted the spuds might nick off us ages ago but believe you did say 8th as well at some point
      Sue thank you for your kind words the other day on the chin up. I am back up and firing and optimistic about the last 90 minutes tomorrow.
      I could go on all day about if’s but’ s and why’s but we are where we are and I suggest we get behind the team and manager for the last for the last 90 minutes and wish Norwich play a game of there lives for the season and spank the spuds.

      1. Alan A surprising and puzzling first sentence.

        You appear surprised that I agree with Jonbos piece, but I have been consistently saying almost exactly what he said and have been saying it for a long time too.
        Hence my astonishment at your mysterious first line!


        FYI, Alan, I very oftenagree with and praise articles in JA,as I TYPICALLY did with this article, provided they have real thought behind them and are NOT hastily rehashed, brief , “two minutes in the making” copies of many pieces already penned.
        So clearly, you choose only to read those posts of mine which call out poorly written and unthought through articles.

        Be a professional, not an amateur sir and do your research in far more detail, as false claims do not get my respect.

        1. Jon
          Firstly appolgises as I readily read your comments and missed a bit due to travelling at the time. I thought you were agreeing to everyone on here. Hence saying the new you. You shouldn’t be so sensitive.
          I try to read all your posts and not just selected ones. It’s ironic because on a majority of occasions I agree with a lot of what you say.
          If you have read some of my comments and not selected ones then you would know I have ways stood by MA and the team and what he is trying to achieve

          Unfortunately I am probably not a well versed as you when it comes to writing but whilst I do not agree with some of the views on here regarding our manager such as Dk, durrand ect I do respect them for there views. I beleive we have had cross words on opinions and a few things said in the heat of the moment due to emotions running high after a defeat ect. But I refrain from shouting them down with CAPS.
          I do not ask for respect on here but I have always tried to show respect when conversing no matter if I agree or disagree with the person
          Jon, respect is earned rather then asked for.
          Will always be an amateur compared to you but do hope I have always shown you the respect you deserve.

          1. Alan, you’re a top, top bloke! 👍
            Glad you’re back to your usual self – Mr Optimistic! As crestfallen as I am with how things have panned out, your comments (barring Monday, of course) never fail to put a smile on my face! COYG

          2. Alan in a spirit of Gooner friendship I welcome your reply and thank you for it. Just to explain that I have always stood against posts that attack me merely for explaining , usually in much detail, what and WHY I think as I DO on any matter.

            As I have needed to explain many times to other Gooners , my own free choice to use caps when I wish is simply because I wish to EMPATHISE certain words, phrases or sentences.

            It is merely the equivalent of vocal inflection though in the written rather than the spoken word. I really do not see why some make such a fuss about how I speak, albeit in words .

            What, rather than how, I write can well be debated and frequently is. THAT is indeed fair game for anyone to challenge.

            But NO ONE has the right to tell me or any other how to type. I am not to blame for having the fortune to have a top class English degree and will not apologise for it. I do not criticise others for lack of spelling or punctuation mistakes, as TBH, it is none of my business and we are, thank goodness, all different.

            As for respect Alan, different people respect different things. For example, I much respect and admire total and esp self honesty, whether or not I agree with the point(s) being made.

            I do not respect laziness- as in such as Ozil, Auba, nor arrogance as in Guendouzi , nor lack of individual thinking.

            Hope that helps and I genuinely do respect you and wish you well.

  4. for me it’s not injuries, take for instance the match against crystal palace when we had all our key players available including partey but we still loss and after the key players got injured we still performed well without them,we were winning matches so u can’t tell me it’s injuries.. the players are just not ready to fight for arsenal, they allowed nerves and pressure get to them..

    1. So if Kane and Son were injured for the last two months, you think Spurs would still have the same amount of points, or more?

  5. You seem to forget that Wenger and Emery were having deep runs in the domestic cups as well as deep runs in Europe. So their injury situations should not be compared with Arteta cos he only had ONE MATCH WEEKLY and completely refused to rotate his players thereby playing youngsters like Saka to the ground which has also made Saka look average and has caused us many injuries. No managers have suffered injuries as much as Wenger and Ferguson, season after season. Yet no one made any excuses for either to fail. Standards are always being dropped and posts being shifted for Arteta

    1. Correct and Arteta had basically only one competition to concentrate on, unlike the other managers. I can see the excuses for next season now.

  6. Well reasoned article. I agree to a large extent with it.

    what is a ‘ bad january transfer window’?

    I wouldn’t say Arsenal had a bad transfer window. The outcome of the window was purposeful and planned. So it cannot be bad.
    A bad one on the other hand is where the club attempts to, but makes a mess of it. The january trnasfer window was not a mess for arsenal. Arsenal chased just one player, Vlahovic. The outgoings were planned.
    It was a quiet Transfer window not a bad one.

    I agree injuries derailed our season and not due to tactical ineptitude as some would say of Arteta.

    The squad was thin and the magnitude of injuries could not have been fathomed given we play a game per week. yes, i’m sure the occurrence of injuries were considered but not to the extent it happened.

    Onward we march!

  7. I beg to differ

    We don’t always dominate the ball possession. So we need someone who can win the aerial duels in the front line, when we aren’t playing well

    Had Vlahovic or another towering CF agreed to join us, we could’ve used him as a target man when we’re playing badly. Having extra defenders like Chambers, Maitland-Niles and Mari won’t reduce the pressure on our defense, because we tend to lose duels in the midfield and front line areas

  8. Injuries are just a lame excuse. We have had Injuries EVERY team has Injuries, thats what you have a squad for. People say thats why we let goals in because most were defensive injuries, well we didn’t score either and our forward line was untouched for most of the season. Injuries mean someone else has a chance to get a managers pick, we all know how ESR, Martinelli, Nketiah and others have sat on the bench because Arteta fancied someone else but as soon as Injuries forced Arteta to replace those injured, they proved better players. Tactics, mam management and calmness are far more important than blaming just injuries. On the face of it, you think you have your best team out but i have run teams at an amateur level and i have been shocked and pleasantly surprised how Injuries have opened my mind to what i was missing. We have failed because of the way we have set thing up, that includes the squad and letting players go out on loan that were better than was left behind.

    1. Oh and not a thing so far on JA about Saliba getting French young player of the year. Well done William Saliba, sorry you weren’t deemed good enough for us and was replaced by White. BIG MISTAKE!

    2. @Reggie

      So if Kane and Son were injured for the last two months, you think Spurs would still have the same amount of points, or more?

      1. No spurs would not of got that amount of wins/points if those two had been injured.

        Obviously I don’t know that, just an educated guess….🤔

      2. Jonbo, Hyperthetical BS (in a nice way) because we don’t know and cant know. I remember a few years ago Alex Fergusson brought a utd team to the Emarites that was missing all of their star names and was basically fodder for us, they beat us with basically their second team. That was a fact, yours was an opinion.

  9. It’s going to be a very hard summer transfer window to attract the right players would take 3 top quality players rather than 5/6 average players getting top quality is going to be very difficult with no champions league football but just going out and bringing in squad players is not going to take the team any further forward going to be a massive transfer window for Arteta he has to get it right if he fails could be the end of him!

  10. The fantasy ‘Process’, manufactured to get Arsenal supporters to accept mediocrity. Arteta ‘snatched defeat from the jaws of victory’. That’s the process. In any other industry in the world the proverbial ‘You’re Fired’ would have been uttered. At Arsenal a new contract was given to Arteta instead. 1 + 1 = 3 at Arsenal nowadays. One game a week and we bottled it in the end.

    1. Sean
      Hope all is well
      We all need to look at how the club is run rather tehn lambasting the manager
      We appointed on the cheap and have not run or funded our club with the appropriate means to be able to challenge for anything for a decade of more.
      If some thing is going rotten u normally cut out or replace but the owners were content to watch and leave alone.
      No manager who ever they would have been UE who was never a good fit for us even though I do rate him as he has proven and now MA have a major rebuilding to get on with.
      We suffer in hope that at some point we can finally get it together but 10 years of catch up is a long time

    2. Sean, do you know of any billion dollar industry where they employ a manager with no management experience????

      There are many who blames the manager, and no one talks about the people who put him there. We should stop having a go at Arteta and deal with the real problem at Arsenal – the owners.

      1. I strongly agree with you, I have said that long ago and many times, I don’t blame MA. The recent article that I made this comment is “Confirmed Arsenal XI to take on Southampton”.

        One of them asked me why? I replied who employed MA in the first place. Similarly, why blame Arsene for only finished top 4 and don’t ask why owner never give more money to buy top players to win titles.

      2. joe and alan

        In whatever we look at the result it is failure. The process should have brought us to our peak, but it is brainwashing you. Along with others there is culpability… Arteta mainly. We are not getting there because Arteta is factually not of the standard required. I feel like I will be saying this year after year. How far has this club fallen? I wish everyone the best, but will always tell the truth.

      3. Been saying this since he soiled our soil for the first time. He is the common denominator in all our years of mediocrity.

        Nothing of consequence in terms of on field success will occur at AFC whilst he darkens our doorway.

  11. Injuries were a big factor and so was the lack of depth in key positions.

    The tougher question is what are going to do about it? A decade ago, it was arguably Diaby who stopped Wenger for splashing big money on a midfield enforcer. It feels like we now have two Diabys in Partey and Tierney – grade A players who can’t stay healthy.

  12. The last 8 games Arsenal won 4 and lost 5 with basically the same squad so how injuries comes into that.

    The squad that beat Man utd and Chelsea is the same one that lost to Brighton and Southampton.

    Pure propaganda.

      1. Here we go again with excuses. It’s high time we realise that excuses don’t win trophies. Other teams had injury issues. Arteta is the manager of Arsenal FC and he should have anticipated injuries when he was sending players on loan and giving away others.
        Arsenal FC deserves better and that’s not Arteta. PERIOD

  13. This is not true. Injuries are not the cause of Arsenal missing out. When have you known an Arsenal without injuries!! You prepare for these injuries in advance by ensuring you have like for like replacements; a point made by Reggie. Even if you don’t want to keep Auba, Bellerin or AMN – that’s fine provided you replace them with better quality replacements.

    A point was made that lack of January activities was a cause and this definitely is a case, whereas Spuds improved because of the players they brought in January, but this does not tell the whole story. Even if we brought Ronaldo and Kessie in January we will still miss out. Arsenal have always bottled it some how.

    A major problem is the lack of an experienced manager to deal with player issues, game management, motivation and strategy. The top 4 team are top 4 because they all have world class managers. ManU is about to join them having signed a near world class manager, but we are still labouring with an inexperienced guy as manager. He mismanaged Partey’s injuries by bringing him in when he needed a rest. If we had a top grade replacement we will would have given him the rest he needed. Instead straight after AFCON, he plays, straight after winning a world cup place with Ghana he plays. The former led to a red card and the latter led to being out for the remainder of the season.

  14. Too much excuses. Arsenal owner, manager and players are responsible grown men, they owned their mistakes and man enough to reject excuses.

    Only fanciful fans will write many articles with excuses but these excuses will be rejected by our owner, manager and players.

    Stop being naive and childish. Be a man.

  15. People choose to see what they want to see; Tunnel vision.

    Blaming injuries aye? Surprised Tierney and Partey got injured AGAIN?

    Who could have predicted that, based on their injury record right?

    Chambers could have covered 3 positions; RB, CB, DM, but his last 6 months salary would have affected our Summer kitty (Not).

    So we allowed Chambers to leave on a free in January before he left for free in June.

    Let’s be honest and call it “Mismanagement” because that’s exactly what it was.

    Predictable injuries to predictable players, no rotation, and very poor use of subs.

  16. But we didn’t have the likes of Kane or Son Injured ?
    Newcastle – he had first choice gk
    First choice CB
    First choice rb
    One of first choice CM
    And zero injuries In attack

    So we had Partey and Tierney injured
    Two players ?
    Can that excuse our performance ?

    Go back to Brighton , saints , palace games
    See who played

    1. very true DS…I was wondering why no one responding in kind to his repeated question regarding if “Kane or Son were injured”, as that’s an apples to oranges comparison

    2. Yes, and if we had both our full-backs and our only world class player fit, and pretty sure we’d already have qualified for the CL.

      I do find it interesting though that no one can answer my question, because you all know I am right!

      I’ll ask it in a simplistic way

      If Kane and Son had missed the last 2 months, do you think Spurs would have:

      A – More points
      B – Same amount of points
      C – Less points

      If you think it’s A or B, then who on earth at Spurs replaces those two, getting lots of goals, assists, and generally causing lots of problems for their opponents?

      1. Stupid question Jonbo, it’s all hypothetical and i did answer it but you chose to ignore it.

        1. I will ask you a stupid question, if we had kept, Saliba, Gouendouzi, Aubameyang who have all helped their teams get CL football (from positions where they were not in before they went) would we have got CL football?

  17. It’s just a gamble that went bad.

    The decision of leaving the squad so razor thin was out right wrong, if we had qualified for top four with this same skeleton group of players then the gaffer would have look like a genius.

    So we have gamble and now waiting on the last throw of the dice,

  18. I could be wrong but the writer does contradict himself when saying,it was injuries and not the transfer window which derailed our season.simple question,what is the purpose of a transfer window?Well for most teams (bar Arsenal)it is to strengthen,bring covers/anticipate injuries…MA/Arsenal did the complete opposite,they weakened the squad both in numbers & quality.i also don’t believe that they couldn’t find a couple of players who could have done a good job for us until the end of the season.i would have understood had we been mid-table or with no chance of top 4,what makes it worse it’s when they tell us that they would rather spend the money in the summer,for me it shows that they weren’t that bothered with qualifying for CL,as they say when you think about the future too much,you tend to forget about the present.

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