Two things have happened to Arsenal this season that I don’t think are being spoken about enough. Firstly, Thomas Partey has already missed more Premier League matches through injury this season than he did for the entirety of last season – we are 12 games in. Secondly, and more interestingly, Arsenal haven’t been majorly impacted by this blow.
This is obviously due to the phenomenal performances of Declan Rice in midfield, although some credit must also go to Italy’s Jorginho who has put in some fine performances this season – North London Derby mistake aside.
While Declan Rice has many attributes which are discussion-worthy in their own right, his best attribute by far is simply his availability.
Arsenal’s last two seasons have both ended with massive drop-offs in team performances. Whether it was last year’s Premier League disappointment or the previous seasons’ top four collapse, Arsenal have yet to get through an entire league campaign under Arteta where they have kept up a high level of performance consistently for the entire season.
While rival fans are quick to throw around words like ‘bottle’ and ‘mentality’, it seems very hard to look at Arsenal’s injury record with key players and suggest this had nothing to do with those late season collapses. While Gooners everywhere will sing the praises of Emile Smith Rowe, Gabriel Jesus, Kieren Tierney, and Oleksandr Zinchenko, it is getting difficult to avoid discussions surrounding their fitness.
The prime example of a key player who has struggled with injury issues is Thomas Partey. Since arriving in North London in January of 2020, the Ghanaian has missed 36 league matches through injury – 2 matches shy of an entire league campaign. The below chart illustrates Partey’s injury record the past few seasons in comparison to some of his Arsenal and Premier League contemporaries.
Curiously enough, last season’s title challenge happened to coincide with Partey’s best season for the Gunners in terms of fitness. He missed just 5 league games throughout the entire campaign. Unfortunately, this trend doesn’t look set to continue with the Ghanaian already having missed 7 league matches through injury this season.
By comparison both Declan Rice and Jorginho have phenomenal fitness records. Rice has missed only 3 league games the last 2 seasons and Jorginho has only missed 2 league games since arriving in England. Additionally, Man City’s Rodri has only missed 4 league games in the last 3 seasons.
Partey’s fitness record is sad for a few reasons. Firstly, it’s heart breaking to see such a talented player have such a tough time with injury. Arsenal fans have been hurt enough in this department before –Diaby, Wilshire, Ramsey, Eduardo etc. Secondly, it’s impossible to build a team around a key player who regularly isn’t available for extended periods of the season.
While injuries haven’t plagued the careers of Declan Rice or Jorginho yet, the role which injuries have played in derailing Arsenal seasons in the past should help to explain why Arsenal have been linked so heavily with Ruben Neves and Douglas Luiz the last few weeks.
Rotation and bodies are a necessity if Arsenal are going to win major silverware this year. To quote the old saying, the best ability is availability.