The Halfway Point in 2013/14: Injury In The Premier League

We are 19 games into the 13/14 season and now - in the midst of stupid scheduling, 3 games a week and an increasing injury rate - what better time is there to look at the injuries numbers for this season.

I am going to examine Injury In The Premier league in a couple of different ways:

  1. Man games lost to injury (if a player misses a fixture that is counted as 1 man game lost to injury) per team.
  2. The weekly trends in terms of total number of players injured league wide.
  3. The split between teams that play in Europe and those that do not.
First of all, here is a link to the review of the injury data for the 12/13 season. The method has been retained, whoscored.com is my source.

The Injury Table (19 games)


Injury
Arsenal 102
Palace 98
West Ham 85
Man City 82
Aston Villa 81
Tottenham 76
Man United 69
Liverpool 68
Newcastle 66
Norwich 65
West Brom 65
Everton 61
Fulham 61
Hull 55
Swansea 52
Sunderland 48
Southampton 44
Chelsea 35
Stoke 28
Cardiff 18

is anyone surprised by Arsenal's number? Anyone.....No. I must also state that some of these numbers -Cardiff's, really - look a little out. Naturally, I am relying on the competence of  whoscored.com to present accurate data.

Anyhow, worry not. This information is accurate as I can present it.

Arsenal are rocking the top of the table once again. Villa's injury woes - defensive, to be specific - are starting to affect results.

Ditto West Ham, who have a recent  record of one win in twelve games. injuries play a part:

Wh_inj_19_medium


Weekly Injury Trends

Let's now look at the total number of injuries per week on a league-wide basis:

Inj_19_new_medium

We have two seasons worth of information now and both of those seasons point to a swell of injuries between gameweeks 12-19. Why do we see a swell of injuries between those dates in late November and for the entire month of December? Too many games played in short a span of time.


Scheduled PL Games In 13/14

Games_per_month_medium

SIX PL games are scheduled in 31 December days. I realise that spectator demand and TV companies drive the number of games that take place in the month of December but would it really affect things that much if the schedule was more balanced and some of the December fixtures were spread more evenly across the season?

Not only do teams have 6 PL games to contend with in December but there is also the matter of Capital One Cup games and, if a club has qualified for European competition, Champions League or Europa League games. All in all a team could face 8 or 9 fixtures in 31 days.

That work load is simply too much and it shows if we look at the average injury totals for teams who play in Europe and those who do not:

Ave_inj_europe_medium

A split of six European teams and fourteen non-European teams is less than ideal in evaluating the data above. But as a general point, teams that have already played a minimum of six extra fixtures and all the travel miles associated with those fixtures tend to be clubs that suffer more injuries than 'domestic' teams.

Conclusion

In the UK we simply play too many football games over the Winter/Christmas period. The bottleneck of domestic games and cup competitions is bad enough. If we add in European fixtures to the mix then the workload is almost guaranteed to to hurt teams in terms of injuries.

In fact, injury to players affects all levels of a football club:

Players

Players are paid to do their job which is to be available for selection to play football matches. Injury clearly prevents this from happening. Injury, depending on the severity, can cause physical decline and a drop off in short term performance.

Managers

Imagine being Sam Allardyce right now with 3 center forwards injured, your best creative player, your young star midfielder and, arguably, your two best defenders also injured. One win in twelve games. Allardyce 's injury list is a rare and horrible one, but it's real enough.

A managers ability to gain points and record wins can be clipped by injuries that are be caused by stupid fixture lists of the like we are currently seeing this December.

Owners

The owners are in a difficult spot: happy to take the TV money and bumper gate receipts but, I imagine, far less happy to be paying substantial wage packets to players who are unable to take the field of play.

An injured player is unable to play, unable to help his manager and team to win football games. All the while the owner picks up the tab for an asset that cannot be used for an undetermined period of time.

If you don't quite believe the theories in this conclusion, then go and look at what can and did  happen to Aston Villa's season in 12/13.

A club was very nearly relegated, a mangers reputation ruined, and an owner came pretty close to presiding over a financial disaster due to a hideous injury list and huge amounts of money invested in players who suffered long term injury

Injuries can wreck seasons, they can also see managers fired. Injuries tend to come about at random points but we also see injuries increase as the frequency of games played increases.

For two years running, late November and December (and January in 12/13) have been the 'hot spots' for the number of league wide injuries. A fairer fixture list where games are more evenly distributed over the entirety of the season would be a sober and sensible path to take in attempting to avoid this winter spike in injuries.

Protect the players, help the managers and enable owners save themselves from burning millions of pounds of their money paying players who have suffered injuries. Injuries, I must mention, that may well have been preventable but for the insanity of British footballing tradition and the harsh endurance test that is our winter football fixture list.

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