Injuries in East London: Uphill Struggle, Rotten Core and Dodgy Ankles
Author: Emily Pulham. Published: 30 October 2018 at 10:23pm
Written by : Joe Levy
West Ham and injuries share a symbiotic relationship. They pair so well you would think they were a food and wine combination on a Michelin Star tasting menu. As iconic a duo as Big Sam and gravy, the injuries that the team suffer never seem to falter. It is a continuous stream of ominous club statements and staged recovery videos that aim to provide hope, but in reality have you screaming at your phone because Andy Carroll has just ran five yards and you think he is going to crumble like a tea-soaked biscuit. There has to be a core reason, a root problem, as to why these injuries build up. It cannot purely be unluckiness or misfortune. Yet, it is an issue that has never been tackled head on by the club.
This crisis shouldn’t come as surprise. A definitive and sustained lack of investment into Rush Green has had a immensely negative impact on the way the players train and develop. Rush Green looks like a training facility for a League Two team. In fact, the facilities there would leave the likes of Notts County in frustration and disbelief. Over last Winter’s freezing temperatures, the squad could not train on the pitches due to lack of under-soil heating. Surely, as a club with the TV money, Premier League status, and apparent aspirations for Europe, this would be a basic requirement. Pellegrini was greatly unimpressed upon his arrival at the club and, through his demands, it appears as if changes are starting to be made. Space has been accommodated to allow the youth teams to train alongside the first-team. A four-million pound investment to revamp Rush Green has recently been given the green light, with aims to remove the portacabin architecture and replace it with a ‘state-of-the-art’ structure. If this ‘art’ is Picasso or a Pre-Schooler’s project is yet to be seen.
Part of the problem lies not just in the lack of investment, but also with where we’ve spent a significant portion of our £100 summer transfer nest egg. Four of those incoming players already find themselves on the treatment table. Wilshere, Sanchez, Perez and Yarmolenko are all out and we have not seen a fraction of their best form. The problem here is that the club’s issues are not manageable in a one-stop fix – there has to be holistic strategy. Without a top-quality training ground, you are already at a major disadvantage. It’s equivalent to owning an outstanding racehorse, training it on a cobblestone back alley, only to be then surprised that is breaks its leg. One only has to look at Manchester City’s complex to see what success can be born out of a world-class facility. Before his tragic passing on Saturday, Leicester’s owner Vicahi Srivaddhanaprbha had committed ten-million pounds to developing Leicester’s new training ground. It is a testament to the man he was that his excellent work for Leicester and in the city has drawn such emotionally raw responses to his passing. An owner and a man from the very top-drawer.
When all is said and done, the injuries will continue as long as the facilities are sub-par – and the absence of these players will continue to effect the team performance and results. Reid and Lanzini have been injured since last season (Reid whilst playing against Swansea and Lanzini in training with Argentina, robbing him of a World Cup and a chance to announce himself on the biggest stage.) Reid has been our best defender consistently for years, but with a terrible injury record and now the wrong side of thirty, he faces an uphill struggle to dislodge the blossoming partnership of Balbuena and Diop. Lanzini’s quality has been greatly missed this season and his connection with Arnautovic, shown against Huddersfield last season, means the sooner he returns the better. Yarmolenko and Sanchez, both recent signings, are likely to be out for the season. Whilst Sanchez was signed as back-up, the loss of Yarmolenko is troubling as he had shown his presence in front of goal and has a left foot like a Mike Tyson hook. Lucas Perez’s absence also leaves the team light up-front.
Arnautovic and Obiang should return for the cup game against Spurs – two players who have been excellent this season. If Arnautovic had played against Leicester, it would have been him slotting it home, instead of Ogbonna sending it into the atmosphere. Obiang has shown his importance, providing mobility and quality passing in midfield, complimenting Noble and Rice well. It was of course Wilshere’s injury that opened the door to Obiang, but ahead of the Englishman’s return, it provides a conundrum. The team have missed Wilshere’s ability to unlock defences and until Lanzini returns, he could play this role. The final injured man is none other than Andy Carroll. Perennially in need of treatment, he is a player who on his day is one of the best forwards in the league. The problem is his day comes around less frequently than Christmas and his game time has been highly restricted during his time in East London. He would be more effective in this system than Hernandez – who suits its like a polar bear does the Sahara – but his unreliability mean it is impossible to depend on him.
The dismay at the injury record should come with knowledge that this is commonplace with West Ham. A lack of investment into poor facilities do not provide adequate support or protection for the players. Also, signing players on big wages with terrible injury records is a somewhat flawed plan. Wilshere, Carroll, Snodgrass and Yarmolenko have all spent significant portions of their careers on the side-lines. So instead of questioning the club’s luck, perhaps there needs to be a deeper, inwards look at our approach, and how it’s halting our progress.