Something rankles about an Arsenal ankle.
The ranks falling foul of a ankle injuries swells as Jack Wilshere joins Robin van Persie, Thomas Vermaelen, Kieran Gibbs, Abou Diaby, Theo Walcott, Thomas Rosicky, Andrey Arshavin, and Aaron Ramsey in the present squad to be kept out for substantial periods of time through injuries to that specific anatomical structure.
Wilshere has been sidelined for an additional three weeks at the least and its not clear when he will return. Wenger on his injury:
" It's a hot spot on the bone of his ankle that if you continue to play can lead to a stress fracture. So we had to stop him."
The timing could not have been worse. By the time Wilshere returns we could be picking up the dregs of an Arsenal season challenging the likes of Wislaw Krakow in the Europa and fighting Swansea for a race to the bottom. Then again we might be looking at a Thomas Vermaelen epic of stops and starts to a "mysterious" ankle ailment that refused to go away and finally called for surgical intervention.
In Ramsey and Diaby's case, horrendous tackles which led to ankle fractures and severe ligamentous damage kept them off the pitch for months. Diaby obviously has not yet fully recovered from that 2006 injury with his recurrences and it is not idle conjecture Ramsey could be faced with the same problem. The rest of the players show a less clear aetiology. There appears to be enough evidence to question their training and fitness methods. Are we looking at a systemic problem?
Arsenal obviously over drill the passing game and it is reflected in their possession stats so there could be an element of "wear and tear" which forms the basis of RMI's (repetitive motion injuries). The obvious remedy lie in fitness programs that build the supporting structures around the ankle and foot and repeated stress tests to see if the bio-mechanical linkages (an extra-ordinarily intricate piece of scaffolding) are patent. The obvious counter to this argument is Barca whose passing game run the pants off anyone in the world but are never beset with the same injury crisis. Their training and fitness methods are offered as panacea notwithstanding Mourinho's insinuations of "doping" which add to medico-surgical procedures on display in the Super Cup to slow them down.
The ankle problem points to yet another area where Arsenal have been caught short. We have already written tomes about Wenger's fumbling response to the telegraphed departures of Fabregas and Nasri. And we can also bring up the "set piece" crisis that torpedoed Arsenal's last season. Who thinks these crises are unrelated? The frustrating part is that in each instance the remedy is clear. The side that now wears a unenviable reputation of shooting themselves in the foot does it once again.