Thanks to several players being unavailable for West Ham United’s first home game of the season, there is already talk of an ‘injury crisis’ in East London.
It’s a bit over the top. Unavailable for the Huddersfield match are Manuel Lanzini, Edimilson Fernandez and potentially André Ayew. We didn’t really expect Manuel to be fit to face the newly-promoted side from West Yorkshire anyway so there’s no surprise there.
Nor was it too much of a surprise either when he returned from the Argentinian national team camp in much the same condition as he was when he went there in the first place.
Reports are a bit conflicting as to whether Manuel actually went there in contention for a place in the Argentine team who drew 1 -1 against Venezuela in a World Cup qualifier or whether he was asked to attend at the request of the national team doctors.
The latter isn’t unusual and it's not uncommon for the South American players with European clubs to be asked to attend for a medical examination and assessment if they’ve been out of action for a while.
It’s an inconvenience for the players involved however. A couple of seasons ago Peru did the same to defender Juan Vargas; then playing in Spain at Real Betis. Juan had to travel all the way to South America and back in order to satisfy the national team’s medical staff that his knee injury was being managed correctly at the club.
Although they were happy that Juan’s recovery was going according to plan they wouldn’t risk him in training and he returned to Betis to continue his rehab.
The point of the Betis example is that this was a similar situation to the recent scenario involving Manuel Lanzini; and like with Juan Vargas, the end result of his trip won’t really change anything. Manuel will simply continue his rehab in East London as before.
Edimilson was reported to have sustained an ankle and foot injury on international duty with Switzerland while André has a thigh muscle injury. But it’s not all doom and gloom.
Slaven Bilić has indicated that Andy Carroll will be included in the squad to face the ‘Terriers’, and that the expectations are that Winston Reid will have sufficiently recovered from his calf injury and be available as well.
So with three players at the most missing from the squad for Monday night’s game, this hardly constitutes an injury crisis.
If you want to talk about a crisis you only need to look at the situation last season. In particular, the latter half of the season where it seemed as though it was mandatory to have an operation of some kind or another.
When you take into account the number of times players like Andy Carroll for example rarely managed to string together a reasonable number of games in succession the fact that the squad is only a few players light for Huddersfield is hardly a cause for long-term concern.
Hammer’s new Head of Sports Medicine Gary Lewin has already explained why Andy has missed so many games to date.
The former Arsenal and England physiotherapist feels that Andy has been his own worst enemy by continuing to play while not 100% fit and also for attempting to come back to full fitness too soon.
The plan now is for Gary and the medical team to meticulously monitor Andy’s recovery - and other players in similar circumstances - to ensure that they only return to play when the time is right.
Citing Andy’s enthusiasm, the feeling is that return to play decisions need to ensure that the said enthusiasm is kept within sensible limits.
While appreciative of the fact that Andy hasn’t wanted to miss any playing time and has even played whilst in pain on numerous occasions, a more pragmatic approach is called for in future.
There’s nothing wrong with players wanting to play, as Gary Lewin explained, but there are times when it’s more prudent not to turn out if the end result is that you are likely to miss even more games.
Due to thinking only about the forthcoming game without taking into consideration that you might just struggle in the days afterwards isn’t a recommended strategy in today’s football.
The planning starts for the next match right after the final whistle blows and the last thing Slaven will want to hear is that people are now doubtful for that as a result.
“Valiantly playing through the pain and defying medical opinion” has no place in the modern game; and it doesn’t help when the media fuel this outdated image portrayed by former players and managers who live in an era that has long gone.
Football has moved on and everyone involved has had to adapt. Injury management now needs to include future planning and a look at the games that lie ahead instead of just concentrating on the next ninety minutes.