Thursday, 24 November 2016

Do Forest really get more injuries than other teams?

Everyone thinks their own club is special, right? Football is not a sport that does perspective well and it's easy for fans of every team to think that their predicament is the worst.

We've presumably all laughed at the fans of Premier League top six teams such as Arsenal, Liverpool or Spurs when they dial up and moan about their teams' deficiencies on football phone-ins. I once heard a Liverpool fan call Talk Sport at half time to demand that Brendan Rodgers was sacked because his side was behind to Aston Villa. They won that game. Let's face it, if you had a pound for every time someone has called for Arsene Wenger to be sacked you'd, well, be able to afford a ticket to see his Arsenal team, probably.

A month ago I asked why Forest have had so many injuries. At that point I totted up that the first 13 league games of the season had seen 11 players taken off during a match as a result of injury. Just five games up until that point had been played out without a substitution due to an injury.

But, was I falling into the lack of perspective trap that catches those poor, hard done to, Premier League fans? Is Forest's injury crisis actually any worse than any other club's? All fans, and all managers, bemoan injuries in the same way that we all always want at least one or two more signings.

Well, firstly, it's hard to tell just how bad the situation is at every club in the Championship. At face value, the data doesn't seem that easy to come by (unless anyone knows of a good source?).

However, this sort of information is more readily available in the Premier League. Last January 15, the BBC ran a story in conjunction with PhysioRoom which featured a league table based on the number of 'days missed' through injury. Again, I don't hold this data for Forest this season but the table also showed the total number of players injured for each of the Premier League clubs, something we have half a chance of comparing.

Top of the table - with the fewest injuries - were Watford, Leicester, Norwich and Swansea with nine injured players apiece. Worst off were the two Manchester clubs, with 20 each, Liverpool and Stoke with 19 and the two North East clubs with 18.

Later, The Independent was one of a number of news outlets to report the fact that Leicester suffered just 18 injuries all season.

How about now? Well, PhysioRoom, where the press seems to get its data on this, shows that Hull and Watford are currently worst off in the top flight with seven injuries each.

So, what about Forest? By my reckoning at least 17 different players have suffered injuries of some form this season: Dorus De Vries, Stephen Henderson, Daniel Pinillos, Michael Mancienne, Matt Mills, Armand Traore, Danny Fox, Jack Hobbs, Damien Perquis, Thomas Lam, Chris Cohen, Muzzy Carayol, David Vaughan, Matty Cash, Matty Fryatt, Britt Assombalonga and Niklas Bendtner.

I fear I may well have missed someone too (have Dumitru and Lica had knocks?) and we're told that Eric Lichaj is a doubt for the Barnsley game.

In total, 32 different players have worn the Garibaldi Red this season and, by my reckoning, a Lichaj injury would mean that at least 16 of those have been injured (with Hobbs and Fryatt yet to start). Two of those are among the players now out on loan too (with Jamie Ward injured) and four have left the club. You could say that 15 of the 25 players who are currently on the books and have played a league game will have been injured should Eric miss out.

There's a chance that Pinillos, Lichaj, Traore, Hobbs, Cohen, Vaughan, Cash, Fryatt, Bendtner and Assombalonga could all be missing for the trip to Oakwell if those 'in doubt' don't quite make it for this game.

If that were the case, it would be ten players missing for Phillippe Montanier. Previouefore the Reading game it was said that nine players were out.

Again, it's a shame we can't compare like-for-like but we can say:
  • Forest seem to have more current injuries than any Premier League team
  • Half of the first team squad has been injured at least once already this season
  • If Lichaj is out, then the 18 different injured players we've had would represent a higher rate than 14 of the 20 Premier League clubs had suffered by mid January last season
  • Leicester only suffered 18 separate injuries last season. With some of our players suffering two or three knocks already then our total is well into the 20s before the half way point of 2016/17.
So, while we can't say with absolute certainty that Forest's is the worst injury crisis, the evidence I can find shows that it must at least be among the worst. The picture is still extremely bleak even when compared to others and shows no real sign of improving.

It is certainly enough to suggest that something really ought to be done about the issue. Peter Blackburn probably summed it up best with this tweet:

He's right, we have to look at all of those things to see if they're contributing to the numbers. If we can get the level of injuries down, even to an average level, that would at least help matters on the pitch. We're at the stage now where, as I argued on Seat Pitch, we need to recruit in January because we can't afford to rely on players plagued by injury.

On this issue, it doesn't seem like we've lost our sense of perspective. The injury problem is real and needs to be addressed. It has to be one of the top priorities for any buyer of the club and cannot afford to get lost amid any change that is hopefully on the horizon.