When does one go from saying that a single instance is happenstance, two is a coincidence, to three or more is a bloody epidemic? Add ankle injury to the list of eventualities an Arsenal player must face including taxes, lack of titles, departure, and death. Or so it would appear. Throw in a gratuitous red card too.
Thomas Vermaelen is out for six weeks after undergoing surgery for a achilles tendon injury of his left ankle. This is the rather optimistic picture presented by his father. In reality, it could be three months or even more.
Last season a similar injury to his right ankle required surgical intervention after his return dragged out eight months. Vermaelen showed no after effects back on the pitch. He had three stellar outings before the Udinese second leg where he suffered the present injury problem diagnosed as an ankle tendinopathy. Which is better than a tear but could become a chronic problem.
He joins Craig Eastmond, Abou Diaby, and Jack Wilshere in the foot and ankle injury list. Arsenal lead the list in injuries afflicting this anatomical structure. In the present side, seven other players have spent considerable periods of time out with ankle problems. Aaron Ramsey, Andrey Arshavin, Robin Van Persie, Johan Djourou, Alexander Song, Tomas Rosicky, and Kieran Gibbs. These are not squad players. They are the line up. At this point, these injuries are not a matter of conjecture as much as a parliamentary inquiry or the subject of medical research.
Our best centre back is out which means Per Mertesacker given his experience has to assume the mantle of organizer in chief before we can say schnell. He will partner Johan Djourou or Laurent Koscielny in another rendition of defensive refurbishment. A further prolongation of our long standing defensive banes of never having the luxury of a settled pair in the heart of defense.
What does this mean for Vermaelen? For the uninitiated the achilles tendon is the vital bio-mechanical link between the calf muscles and the foot. The tendon helps in "pushing off" the ground when we walk, run, or jump. Any event that compromises the integrity of the tendon or its attachments results in disruption in these cornerstones of physical functioning. A centre back like Vermaelen relies on intact ankle and foot structures to generate the explosive power to elevate himself above or around to deal with a Christopher Samba setpiece threat. It allows him to accelerate into a sliding tackle that would take the ball away from Luis Suarez. Or help an unsighted, out of position Sczeszny with a last minute goal saving toe poke.
David Beckham who suffered a complete tear of the achilles tendon but came back after 7 months to fit right into the Galaxy attack shows no ill effects. He's the high profile set piece man in the lower gear MLS which is just what the doctor ordered. Vermaelen has no option but to go back to the grinding wear and tear of his job responsibilities and the unflagging pace of the Premiership. Unfortunately, this is looking to be a recurring pattern of injury time outs that further compromises Arsenal's shaky back line. A winter transfer would be the obvious remedial action but this is Arsenal where such considerations are secondary to the bottomline.