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Arsene Wenger must take responsibility for Arsenal's injury problems

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Arsene Wenger's reluctance to change has cost Arsenal dearly when it comes to injuries as stats published by the Daily Mail revealed on Thursday.

The national newspaper claims that Mesut Ozil's knee ligament tear was Arsenal's 890th injury since 2002; almost 100 more than Manchester United's 794, who lie second in the same table.

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In what sums up Arsenal's crisis, the same publication broke a story minutes later claiming that the France Football Association had released Laurent Koscielny after diagnosing him with an achilles injury; make that 891 then.

For some time, Arsenal could put their trouble with injury down to bad luck. Abou Diaby's broken ankle, Eduardo's broken leg and Aaron Ramsey's broken leg came as a result of bad challenges, but with the problems persisting for well over a decade it is becoming clear that there is a fundamental flaw in Arsenal's training system. It is something Wenger must take responsibility for.

While an injury should be labelled as a slight set back to a player's season, persistent issues have been so intense at the Emirates Stadium that they have stopped players reaching their potential.

This is not just detrimental to the player but to the club as well. It is no coincidence that Arsenal's worst injury problems coincided with one of the longest trophy droughts in the club's history.

Major injury problems

Although Arsenal's perennially crocked stars are too numerous to mention individually, there are plenty who sum up the situation perfectly. Mainly Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott. Both came into the Arsenal squad with a bang.

Walcott was invited into the World Cup with the England squad before even making his Premier League debut. Similarly Wilshere became the Three Lions' tenth youngest player ever in 2010.

However, Walcott is now 25-years-old and is still yet to appear in a World Cup finals match. He was left out of Fabio Capello's squad in 2010 and injury ruled him out this summer. Wilshere made Roy Hodgson's squad by the skin of his having recovered from a broken foot but clearly was not fit.

Wenger has been widely criticised for contributing to both of their injury troubles. Wilshere played 335 Premier League games for Arsenal in the 2010/11 season as an 18-year-old but missed the entirety of the following season after fracturing his ankle.

Using Wilshere so prominently was a risk Wenger was willing to take, such was Wilshere's talent but it has been detrimental to both the player and the club ever since.

Wilshere has failed to start over 20 Premier League games in the subsequent three seasons, and many doubt he will ever reach his potential.

Renowned and controversial Dutch coach Raymond Verheijen cited Wenger's coaching techniques and overloading of his stars for the problems.

He told The Mirror last year: "Clearly something is going wrong. If you look at the law of the big numbers, something in the last ten years is going wrong. It’s clearly incompetence but it’s unconscious incompetence. The only way you can improve is if it’s conscious incompetence, so you’re aware of it.

"Then you can act. If you are in denial, you are blaming the outside world for the injuries and not looking in the mirror then you will stay incompetent.

Denial

Blaming the outside world is something Wenger is very good at doing. He bizarrely insinuated that Ramsey's injury problems may be down to a type of medication he was taking without telling the club. Nothing to do with training methods or workload.

But despite training Ramsey lightly and resting him from smaller games, Ramsey still went down against Tottenham Hotspur with a familiar hamstring injury. He'll be out until November while Ozil has been ruled out until 2015.

Having managed these problems for a decade, it is amazing that Wenger only took steps to make a change this summer. Shad Forsythe was poached from Germany's World Cup winning set up charged with the task of revolutionising the way Arsenal prepare for games.

Evolution or revolution

Oddly enough, Arsenal's first team fitness coach Neil Banfield remained at the club and is currently trying to adopt Forsythe's techniques alongside the players. So, again, Wenger is encouraging evolution rather than revolution at London Colney.

What is obviously is that the problems are so ingrained within the club that they will take years to solve. Not only that, but the players will have to wholly adopt Forsythe's approach for it to work.

As head of youth development Andries Jonker suggested, it may not be the players who hold Forsythe back.

He told Voetbal International: "What I do see is that everybody at the club has the feeling that they need to have the green light from Wenger before they do anything. But maybe that is not the case."

Dictator

It is growingly obvious that Wenger's incessant need to control everything to do with Arsenal has held senior figures at the club back. Changing Arsenal's fortunes with injuries is clearly going to be one of those.

Wenger will have what he deems to be a recipe for winning titles. He experienced unparalleled success in his first decade with Arsenal, and clearly believes that recipe has not gone stale.

But Wenger needs to relinquish control of the set up and trust Forsythe to do what he did so well with Germany. He needs to move into a new era with the Gunners, allowing them to catch up with the changing face of football.

The training techniques are clearly out of date and Arsenal have suffered massively as a result. Wenger has finally looked to solve the issues with outside help but can Wenger change his ways so late into his Arsenal reign?

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Arsenal
Premier League
Football

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