West Ham face former title-contenders Arsenal at an interesting time in both teams’ seasons. West Ham have won six of their last ten games, whilst Arsenal are ‘enjoying’ the fourth worst form in the Premier League, having won but three in ten.
It’s natural to think that based on form alone, we could get something out of this game, but I can’t help but be a little nervous about what’s going on away from the stadia and closer to the training ground. For me, my thoughts are turning to science— sports science, to be exact.
Think of teams drastically affected by injury this season, and your thoughts would not stray far from West Ham United and Arsenal. Both teams have experienced a run of horrific bad luck when it comes to players’ fitness, and each have dropped mass amounts of points as a result.
West Ham didn’t exactly get off to a cracking start to the season, but we hit new lows over the winter period when we lost the use of Andy Carroll, Ricardo Vaz Te, Mladen Petric, Matthew Taylor, Razvan Rat, Winston Reid, Joey O’Brien, James Collins, Alou Diarra, and George McCartney, which led to us suffering a serious dip in form.
Admittedly, not everyone was injured at the exact same time, but the majority of them were— plus we also saw injuries to Joe Cole and Stewart Downing in and around the same period of time.
For Arsenal, the injury issue has been similar and equally as heartbreaking for their supporters. Arsenal were off to a flying start to the season and seemed certain to force a close finish for the title . Unfortunately for them, injuries to their squad have resulted in a terrible turn of form for the Gunners.
At the time of writing, they are reported to be missing Laurent Koscielny, Mesut Ozil, Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott, Ryo Miyaichi, and Abou Diaby with the potential to also have Tomas Rosicky, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Serge Gnabry sidelined by knocks for the West Ham game. Add in the suspended Mathieu Flamini, and that Aaron Ramsey is only just returning from a lengthy injury spell, and you can see where Arsenal’s terrible run of results have come from.
Both clubs have been rocked by injury, with the only difference being when each respective teams injuries began— and here’s where things get interesting. Ramsey and Walcott were injured in late 2013 and early 2014 respectively, but it is evident that the majority of injuries to Arsenal’s side came after mid-January.
Similarly, West Ham’s injuries began to clear up around that time, and at the time of writing, we are only without O’Brien and McCartney (and possibly Collins) owing to injury. Knock on wood, but our injury woes have improved drastically since mid-January.
Here’s where the West Ham and Arsenal injury connection comes in. In mid- January, Head of Sports Medicine and Sports Science Andy Rolls left West Ham to become a physiotherapist at Arsenal. Keeping in mind that at the time the Guardian referred to us as “injury-cursed West Ham,” it’s surprising that Arsenal snapped him up. He might just be the unluckiest man in the world to coincide his career with two clubs’ terrible injury spells, but might there be something more to it? Is this a strange coincidence, or is something not right with the way players have been conditioned in this instance?
I feel for Arsenal, as it’s a terrible feeling to know your team could do so much better at full strength, but at the same time, I’m so grateful that the Hammers are now in a much stronger, and fitter position. Could be luck, could be science, but either way I’ll be disappointed if we don’t take something from the Arsenal game.