David Moyes summed up the Hammer’s injury situation perfectly the other day.
Referring to Manuel Lanzini and Andy Carroll, the manager pointed out that although neither are fully fit he’s expecting to be able to use both players in some capacity between now and the end of the season.
Even if it’s only to come off the bench for half an hour if circumstances dictate, both players still have a valuable contribution to make to the Hammer’s survival battle.
In Andy’s case, that particular contribution was never highlighted more than last Monday night by his goal against Stoke City!
Now with Arsène Wenger’s decision not to continue at Arsenal beyond the end of this season, Andy could well be needed on Sunday at the Emirates.
Teams have a habit of doing well when a new manager takes over, and although Arsène is still very much in charge at at the moment, the players there will already be thinking ahead and well aware that they’re going to have to impress another coach from now on.
With the chances being high that whoever takes over could be sitting and watching in the stands - if not on Sunday then certainly within the next couple of weeks - the Arsenal players will be well up for the game.
It could be that the last thing they’ll want is someone like Andy Carroll or Marco Arnautović giving them a hard time physically!
On the other hand a fully competitive and no holds barred type of London derby might just be what they’ll relish on the day.
David Moyes knows that one of Andy Carroll’s key strengths is his physical presence; and will likely be planning to make the most of this in the handful of games the Hammers have left.
Potentially using Andy as a substitute and limiting his playing time to half and hour or so will be designed to maximise his on-field presence.
This well-known use of Andy’s physical attributes is by no means hot off the press news; and even Alan Pardew spoke about Slaven Bilić taking that approach earlier in the season.
But at times like this you need to play to your strengths; and David will have given all this a fair amount of thought over the last 48 hours.
The manager also referred to Manuel Lanzini’s potential return to play.
In doing so, he was emphatic that Manuel’s troubles are directly attributed to the MCL knee injury he sustained while on international duty with Argentina’s national team as opposed to being anything related to his fitness.
Manuel Lanzini’s absence has been due to a sprain of the medial collateral ligament of the knee - aka the MCL - and as we know, this is a common injury in football.
Previous research has shown that where knee injuries in football are concerned, sprains of the MCL are among the most common of all the lower limb ligamentous injuries (Ekstrand et al.,2011).
With injuries to the anterior talofibular ligament - or the ATFL as this structure is commonly known - featuring highly in ligamentous sprains of the ankle (Fousekas, 2012), these are undoubtedly two of the most frequent injuries in football today.
James Collins missed several weeks of first team football as a result of an ATFL ankle sprain earlier this season; and in attempting his return fell victim to another common football injury - the hamstring strain.
This problematic injury is so well known for it’s susceptibility to recurrence that David admits that working to prevent this is what is keeping the Welsh stopper out of the team for longer than expected.
So while James remains unavailable for the time being, Manuel Lanzini’s circumstances are actually the reverse of Andy Carroll’s situation.
In Andy’s case there are reported to be no doubts at this stage about his recovery from ankle surgery; just the match fitness aspect of it.
In particular the query is over Andy’s ability to pace himself over a whole ninety minutes - something that David doesn’t think is possible at the moment. On that basis we don’t really expect to see Andy given a full game at the Emirates.
Manuel on the other hand has struggled to shake off the knee ligamentous injury enough to be able to consider himself anywhere near approaching full fitness until now.
David has had to manage players returning to the team after injury in stages. Often, it can be juggling act.
This week has been a good example of having to separate doubts over the actual injuries themselves from doubts over match fitness; which is a whole separate issue.
This can be difficult at times and David will be hoping his judgement stays true; at least until safety is guaranteed.
Ekstrand J, Hagglund M, Walden M (2011). Injury Incidence and Injury Patterns in Professional Football. The UEFA Injury Study. British Journal of Sports Medicine. Vol 45; 553 – 558.
Fousekis K, Tsepis E, Vagenas G (2012). Intrinsic risks factors of non-contact ankle sprains in soccer: a prospective study on 100 professional players. American Journal of Sports Medicine. Vol. 40 (8); 1842 – 1850