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My Recurring Arsenal Nightmare
It’s like a recurring nightmare… I’m standing outside of the training ground at Colney on the Friday following the final match of an international break hoping to get a glimpse of some of the players on their way into the complex. First, a car pulls up and Bakary Sagna gets out and his arm is in a sling. I think to myself, “Unlucky fellow.” Then another car pulls up and out steps Robin van Persie, only he’s on crutches with his left leg in a cast. I think to myself, “Not again.” Another ride pulls up and the driver gets out and goes around to open the back door. Cesc gets out with his head wrapped in bandages and both arms in casts. Then I begin to hear the sirens of many ambulances off in the distance quickly approaching. About 20 ambulances all pull up to the ground and every other member of the first team is carried into the complex on a stretcher. Here’s where the most recent dream had a slight twist… Then I notice that Arshavin hasn’t come back yet. Just then a final car pulls up and I can see Andrei is driving. He must be alright. He gets out of the car and starts walking into the ground when Guus Hiddink jumps out of a bush, kicks him in the groin, and runs off laughing. I look up and raise my hands to the sky with fists clinched and scream, “DAMN YOU INTERNATIONAL BREAKS!!!”
Despite warnings from Arsene Wenger, Guus Hiddink chose to play Arshavin on Wednesday away to Wales where he, most predictably, aggravated a groin injury which he had already worsened in Arsenal’s last league match at United. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Hiddink either ignored Arshavin or wasn’t paying enough attention to his situation by leaving him on the pitch for the full 90 minutes.
We can all appreciate Russia’s fight with Germany for the automatic qualification spot from Group Four, but did Russia really need to play Arshavin away to Wales to be able to get a result? Had it been a match with group leaders, Germany, it might be understandable if not any more excusable.
Why do we always suffer injuries to key players in what seems like every international break? We have lost Robin van Persie more than once to international break injuries, among many others. Nowadays we usually chalk it up to our seemingly unceasing bad luck with injuries in recent years. But this situation is different.
Everyone knew Arshavin had been carrying a groin injury since last season and that he had re-aggravated it at Old Trafford. Hiddink did not play him on Saturday home to Liechtenstein and said that Arshavin’s “condition [was] improving” and he was “getting closer to being able to play.” He also said, “Hopefully with some rest and intensive treatment we could get him ready for the Wales match.”
What kind of manager would risk his best player in a match against a team that poses no real threat? The kind of manager who will not need that player again immediately. The injury to Arshavin does not hurt Hiddink or Russia in any serious way because he is only expected to be out for a little over a week.
But in that time he will miss three matches for his club including the important trip to Eastlands and the first Champions League group stage fixture. For Russia, he likely will not miss a game because the next international break isn’t until the second week of October, by which time Arshavin should be totally fit again.
The problem, from an economic standpoint, is that this is a player who is being paid, by Arsenal, say, £75,000 per week. If he misses two weeks, that is £150,000, which in American money is approaching a quarter of a million dollars. Arsenal are now paying almost $225,000 to a player who can’t play because of the gross negligence of his national team coach.
Let’s not kid ourselves, football is a business and in no other business to companies loan out their best workers to do dangerous work which could result in an incapacitating injury for no compensation. That is just absolutely ludicrous.
And I understand the “When your country calls…” arguments and that was all well and good 20-30 years ago. But when you invest £15m on a player and then have to subject him to injury for no possible gain and frequently a loss, it is highly unfair to the clubs. In purely economic terms, it makes no sense whatsoever.
But, in a world where it cannot be changed, we should at least be able to hope for is international managers to at least show some respect for the clubs’ assessments of their players. In an ideal world, I would like to see Hiddink pay the club that money himself along with a note that says:
Sorry for being such a cunt.
ARSENE WENGER’S PRESS CONFERENCE (Clip)