View from the Boot Room | Week Nineteen

Monday, December 23 2019

 

Fantasy League is too easy sometimes, isn’t it?

I daresay you all had 100+ pts from the pre-Christmas weekend. And your team looked largely like this…

Player

Club

Total

Price

Selection %

Henderson

SHU

12pts

£4.8m

8.4%

 

D

E

F

 

Alonso

CHE

11pts

£6.0m

2.5%

Kabasele

WAT

11pts

£4.3m

0.2%

Stephens

SHU

10pts

£4.3m

0.2%

Luiz

ARS

9pts

£5.7m

4.9%

 

M

I

D

 

Willian

CHE

16pts

£7m

2.6%

Sarr

WAT

13pts

£6.2m

0.2%

Almiron

NEW

10pts

£5.8m

0.4%

Cantwell

NOR

10pts

£4.8m

20.6%

 

A

T

T

 

Ings

SOU

13pts

£6.5m

13.5%

Vardy

LEI

9pts

£10.1m

51.4%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Exactly that would’ve chalked up 124pts.


But – all hilarious banter aside – by the look of the selection percentages, not many had more than a couple kitted up this weekend.

Ings is worth keeping though. That’s 7 in 7 for Danny. And Cantwell is worth sticking with for at sub-£5m.

We should also make honourable mentions to a few good performers who didn’t quite make the best X1. But could be a look in the coming weeks.

Mahrez MCI £8.3m 3.8%

Grealish AVL £6.3m 12.6%

Foster WAT £4.8m 1.9%

Digne EVE £5.7m 11.6%

The next week or so will no doubt throw up a dose of upsets and oddities. But there looks to be a couple of good things on offer from the Boxing Day fixture list…


Tap ins

There’s a handy chance of clean sheets for Tottenham, Chelsea and Sheffield United.

Spurs need a bounce – and Brighton don’t travel well. Just 1pt and two goals on the road to Top 10 teams so far. And Chelsea and Blades will go into odds-on home wins full of confidence.


Long shots

Three more teams with clean sheet claims are Everton, Palace and Man United.

Ancelotti knows how to set up a back four and Everton’s back four will know that. And if they don’t, they soon will. Plus, Palace have racked up a clean sweep of clean sheets v Bottom Third teams so far.

You’d assume that De Gea will remember to take his hands for the visit of Newcastle too.

And goals wise, I’ll be sticking with Vardy, Rashford and Tottenham’s front three Alli, Moura and Kane.


Worth a punt

With yer man Ings as my number three, of course. Just in case we’re wrong about Chelsea’s clean sheet.

And here’s one for you…

What about Leicester to beat Liverpool. To Nil. Klopp’s lot are bound to be a bit puffed out from their World Club escapades. The Foxes have only dropped 4pts at home this season. And will have the scent of blood in their nostrils.

Load up on the usual suspects. Leave those Liverpool defenders on the bench for another week. And keep Vardy skipper.


 


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McGinn Fractures Villa’s Survival Hopes

Sunday, December 22 2019

 

John McGinn’s ankle injury could be the most serious that we have seen in the Premier League this season, not because of the physical damage to the anatomy of his ankle but because of how important he is to Aston Villa’s survival campaign.


Unfortunately, IT IS BREAKING News

Scotland’s player of the year was reported to have suffered an ankle fracture when his studs got stuck in the turf which meant that he was unable to continue. As he hobbled off down the tunnel in pain, I’m sure every Villa fan felt sick to their stomach with worry while they were still hopeful that his removal from play might just be precautionary. Unfortunately, the sickly feeling was justified as Dean Smith later confirmed that McGinn had gone to the hospital for an x-ray and had indeed fractured his ankle.


McGinn: A Rare Commodity in the Modern Game

Villa fans have voiced their outrage on social media speculating that McGinn’s injury was a direct result of Smith’s decision to play him whilst still recovering from a thigh problem which has been hampering him since his involvement with Scotland. McGinn, himself stated via Twitter, that a lot of footballers play with niggles and that his ankle injury was not related, and that nobody was to blame. This tells you everything you need to know about McGinn: A man who takes responsibility for his own actions, a man who doesn’t blame others for his misfortune, a man of men who you would want on your team sheet every week.


A Picture Paints a 1000 words

Over the next few days, the medical staff at Villa will carry out a number of investigations to assess the extent of the injury. McGinn is certainly going to have an MRI of his foot and ankle to assess the integrity of the ligaments and joint surfaces and also very likely will have a CT Scan to garner more information on the type of fracture he has suffered. It is common practice in professional football to consult with an external specialist ankle surgeon to assess whether if he is a surgical candidate or not. Surgery is performed if the surgeon considers that the fracture will not heal well as was the case of Willy Boly the Wolverhampton Wanderers defender.

Common Ankle breaks and fractures

The three bones specific to the ankle joint that can be affected are:

  • The tibia or shinbone
  • The fibula, which is the thinner of the two lower leg bones.
  • The talus, which is a small, wedge-shaped bone that is located deep in the ankle and supports both the tibia and the fibula.


Prognosis: How will he be sidelined for?

Data on ankle injuries from Ben Dinnery at Premier Injury shows us that injuries to the ankle are very prevalent, costly but surprisingly don’t cause a lot of days of time loss; however, I suspect that McGinn will be out for a lot longer than 25 days!! It is very difficult to forecast how long McGinn will be out for at this early stage. It could range anywhere between 4 to 6 weeks for a simple, uncomplicated fibula fracture with no associated ligament or joint damage. At the other end of the spectrum, it could take anywhere upwards of 6 months for a more severe injury where there is damage to the joint surface, ligaments and fibula/tibia which requires surgery. Let’s hope for McGinn, and Villa, that it’s the former, and not the latter.


The Rehab Journey

Recovering from a foot and ankle injury is not quite as smooth or as plain sailing as it is from other injuries as it comprises of 26 bones, 33 joints, and more than 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments. Following damage to the ankle is not uncommon to suffer from longstanding limited movement of the ankle joint, stiffness, reduced strength of the muscles of the lower leg, and an inability to tolerate the physical demands of the Premier League through the foot and ankle. One of the most critical aspects of the rehab journey early on is to try and maintain some sort of weight-bearing through the ankle if possible. This can be assisted by wearing a walking boot and/or mobilising with crutches so that at least some of the weight of the body is still going through the ankle joint to encourage optimal healing, limit the effects of stiffness and loss of range of movement and maintain muscle strength as much as possible. I’ve detailed the task-based criteria rehab journey that he is likely to go through in a piece I wrote recently about Paul Pogba’s ankle injury. You can check it out here

Over the coming few weeks, I will write in more detail, to give you a further insight into McGinn and what it is like to recover from an ankle injury as a professional footballer.


I hope you enjoyed the read, please feel free to get in touch via twitter if you have any pressing questions.

Merry Christmas

Johnny Wilson


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View from the Boot Room | Week Eighteen

Friday, December 20 2019

 

No Salah. No Mane. No van Dijk…

There’s been some big money moves this weekend. We’ve already seen Vardy’s selection increase to 51.3%, De Bruyne is up to 41.6%. And Kelly is stacking 31.1%.

Whaddaya mean ‘who?’

Martin Kelly. Palace defender. Could be a sly pick for a sheet this week too. But we’ll get to that in good time.

Eyes down…


Tap ins…

Everton home win. Yes, that’s Everton. Home. Win.

With Big Dunc bringing order I’m tempted to reach into the bin to retrieve a few Toffees. Pickford, Keane, Coleman and even Baines – for old times’ sake – could be wallowing in clean sheets v Arsenal. And even v Burnley next time out.

You’ve got to fancy Wolves to extend their unbeaten run (to seven) at Norwich. Just the one shut out on the road though, so keep it Doherty, Jota and Jimenez. In that order. And if you believe the hype about Traore… you’re on your own. Speedboat. No driver.

Vardy loves a goal… I was going to add: against the Big Six. But I could just leave it there. 11 in 10 and the wings all that Red Bull gives him (plus type 2 diabetes, probably) will likely make it another difficult afternoon for City’s backline.


Long Shots…

On the other hand – and team – De Bruyne looks as imperious as ever. And at £1.5m cheaper than Sterling, has prompted a big shift in ownership. His 41.6% to Raheem’s current 24.6%.

Man United should register a rare sheet too. Anyone else think that Maguire is due a goal too?

Tottenham could well take advantage of a wobbly Chelsea – who’ve lost four of their last five. In form Alli, Son and Kane promise the goals. Moura the value.

Rashford has 9 in 10 in all comps. He’s never done that before.


Worth a punt…

Sheffield United’s midfield motor Fleck has scored 4 in his last seven PL matches. But before you break the bank to find a place for the £4.9m man, consider that it took almost 1000 matches to score his previous four…… And also that he is SUSPENDED for this one!!

And furthermore…

Both Brighton v Sheffield United and Newcastle v Palace have the look of draws to me. Low scoring ones. Maybe even 0-0s. So there could be a sneaky sheet or two to be had. Blades’ Lundstram, Baldock and Stevens; Dunk (Brighton), Willems (Newcastle) and Palace’s Guaita are top picks.

And finally, a little round of gloved applause for Aaron Ramsdale. Bournemouth’s No one has managed to clamber his way to the top of the goalkeeper listings despite losing 5 of the last six matches. Shipping 11 goals in the process.

Home to Burnley. Seen stranger things happen.


 


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What we learned | Week Seventeen

Thursday, December 19 2019

 

Back in the olden days of Brylcreemed hair, baggy shorts and muddy pitches – we used to say the league table didn’t mean a thing until Christmas.

That’s all changed nowadays, of course. Managers are under the cosh if they’re not in a Europa League qualifying position by 4pm on the opening day. But with the festive season sneaking up behind us with its ball-peen hammer raised, it’s a good time to consider what we have learned so far.

And this, brothers and sisters, is the team of the season up to and including week seventeen:

Player

Team

Points

Cost (m)

% picked

Ramsdale

BOU

70

£4.6

4.6%

 

 

 

 

 

Lundstram

SHU

89

£5.2

48.4%

Pereira

LEI

85

£6.5

17.4%

Evans

LEI

77

£5.2

5.5%

Baldock

SHU

77

£4.9

7.4%

 

 

 

 

 

De Bruyne

MCI

116

£10.3

40.3%

Mane

LIV

115

£12.3

40.4%

Salah

LIV

104

£12.2

21.9%

Sterling

MCI

91

£11.8

24.2%

 

 

 

 

 

Vardy

LEI

133

£10.1

51.4%

Rashford

MUN

103

£9.0

26.8%

 

A few eyebrow raisers to consider. The first being the total bill for the above – a mere £91.1m. If you’re wondering where your selection went so wrong, read on…


Goalkeeper

I know what you’re thinking…

Who?

Aaron Ramsdale. That’s who. Currently keeping goal for the worst team in the PL. Suffering a defensive injury crisis. Told you it was not a season for clean sheets.

And with Guaita (Palace), Ryan (Brighton) and Henderson (Sheff United) making up three of the next four, if you’re still paying more than £5.0m for your keeper, you need to have a long, hard look at yourself.


Defenders

Leicester and Sheffield United have probably been the stories of the season so far. But – Lundstram aside – plenty of you are banking on the second half of the season telling a different story. Liverpool’s trio Alexander-Arnold, Robertson and van Dijk have all scored in the 70s. And been selected by 29.9%, 20.9% and 40% of you respectively.

Still some bargains about though. Blades have got a tough looking January, which could bring LEI boys Soyuncu (£5.1m) and Chilwell (£5.8m) into play. And at £4.7m Dunk (BHA) is worth dipping your bread in.


Midfielders

No arguments with this four. Unless your surname is Son, Maddison and Silva perhaps. And even then it’s based on counting pennies rather than points.

Mount (CHE) and Tielemans (LEI) offer a bit of value at £6.5m and £6.6m. Alli (£8.7m) could have a grandstand finish at Spurs.

And Pogba is due back soon – if his ankle stands up to the rigorous workout in the conga line at his brother’s wedding. You might think £8.4m is an expensive risk for a moody Frenchman looking for a transfer, so you might want to swap him for Martial. A moody Fren… you’re way ahead of me.


Forwards

Aubameyang (ARS) is only squeezed out on price and looks worth £10.8m of anyone’s money. Or if you go £0.1m more and think Kane is able to turn things around at Tottenham.

Abraham and Jimenez haven’t quite done enough (for me) to justify their midrange fees, so it’s all about thrifty third choices.


And that looks as random as the Top Five goalkeepers.

Check in next Friday for more of that good stuff.


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View from the Boot Room | Week Seventeen

Friday, December 13 2019

 

Oof! What a fixture list. Three standout Home Wins, another three more-than-likelys; a nailed on Away Win and a wild card 0-0.

But before you throw your money over the counter at the bookies, there are some FPL points to secure.

Eyes down…


Tap ins…

Nailed on clean sheets for…

Liverpool. Watford hate scoring goals. Hate it, I tells ya. Just one in their last three. And Liverpool have chalked up their first back to back clean sheets since September (all comps).

Usual suspects. Van Dijk, Robertson, Alexander-Arnold, Allison. In that order.

Chelsea. Bournemouth are having a shocker. Five defeats on the spin and back to back blanks means Chelsea’s defenders can take it to the Bridge. One, two, three, hit meh!

Unusual suspects. Kepa, Azpilicueta and you could do worse than getting on the £4.7m James bandwagon.

Leicester City. They’re eight on the spin and fairly flying. Poor Norwich could pay the price for a dress rehearsal for the showdown with Man City. Söyüncü and Chilwell for the prudent, Pereira if you’re feeling flush.

And keep that armband on Vardy.


Long Shots…

United’s Manchester and Sheffield could give you a sheet too. But I’d rather stick with the sharp end of OGS’s lot – Rashford looks like the player we all hoped he would and James looks better than we thought. For Blades, Lundstram is still proving money well spent – as 47% will testify.

They’ll be goals at Arsenal – there usually is. And they usually come from Aubameyang and Lacazette. But I’ll be stocking up on City players. Sterling is due one. De Bruyne too. And Jesus three. To add to the holy trinity, he hit in the week.

And I wouldn’t dissuade you from giving Southampton’s Ings a spin. He’s hit five in five – yes, five in five. And the Saints should march all over West Ham - just one win in five, 4pts in nine.


Worth a punt...

Feeling frisky? How about Liverpool starting Origi? He only got a couple of minutes in midweek, and there’s a lot of football to be played over the next month. Could be a backdoor bargain.

And here’s another swerve ball for you. Two in fact. What price the 0-0 between Burnley and Newcastle. Barnes and Wood are doubts while Saint-Maximin is ruled out. Burnley are desperate for a result; Toon would probably take one. Tarkowski and Dúbravka are the picks.


 


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What we learned | Week Sixteen

Wednesday, December 11 2019

 

Right, we’ll deal with all the Christmas drinks you owe me first…

Salah, obvious. Allison, Robertson and Alexander-Arnold, likewise. But you’re welcome. Vardy, easy. Alli, peasy. Aurier and Alderweireld, lemon squeezy. But Guaita – ooof, now we’re talking*. Super Blades Stevens and Baldock** and 24pt trio Rashford, James and Martial. Ooh yeah, that’s the spot.

*You don’t even know who he plays for, do you? Eyes roll. He’s Palace’s 10pt weekend scoring keeper.

** Yes, two weeks ago. Are you listening at the back?


So, what else did we learn in GW 16...?

Is it Fergie time at Everton?

After a slam-Dunc 3-pointer in his opener, the Big Man might hang around. But will the fear factor?

Richarlison is 3 for 3 (and 4 in 5) if you trust him. I don’t.


Lamps flickering a little?

Whisper it, but that’s three defeats from 4 for Chelsea. City you’d take, but West Ham (at home) and Everton…? A fistful of nice festive fixtures suggests there might be some Defensive points up for grabs so no wholesales over the next 8, but there are better options going forward.


No, I don’t like to be by the seaside

If you haven’t bailed out on Bournemouth yet, do so. No points in 5 and no goals in two make grim reading. No business here.


Klopp. Happy Time

But business as usual at Liverpool. Fairly flying and seeing City chocking won’t do them any harm at all. Robertson, van Dijk and Firmino for £22.9m. Mane, Salah and Alexander-Arnold for £31.8m. Or some variation in between.


Mour to come from Spurs

Don’t be fooled by 12 goals in 4 Mourinho matches, Jose will want to sort that Defence out. You can keep your Kane’s, stick by your Son’s and ‘ave your Alli’s – but Aurier and Alderweireld will earn their Spurs between now and May.


Crashing and Burnley

Three bad’uns on the spin with 11 shipped. It’s not unusual for Burnley to slump like this – it’s not the first time this season they’ve lost 3 in a row. But when Barnes and Wood aren’t their top FPL scorers, it’s time to put them on hold.


Watford looking down

And almost certainly out. Keeper Ben is still Fostering a little support (2% of you) at £4.8m, and you could do worse. But not much.


No crown jewels at the Palace

Despite a tidy season, Palace are of no more interest than Watford. The keeper Guaita is also their top man - and represents value at £5.0m.


Cracks showing at City?

Forget about clean sheets until Laporte returns and/ or he has a new centre back partner. Aguero has looked an expensive indulgence so far – and is now crocked. So it’s all about the value of Sterling, Silva and…erm… De Bruyne. Although the great David looked old on Sunday, didn’t he?


Do we trust United to be ‘back’ after two good performances? Hmm. Not sure. But Rashford is five from 5 and worth £8.9m of anyone’s fake money. James too is a solid 4th choice in midfield at £6.1m. Can see them tightening up at the back too.


This Villa’s foundations look shaky

Villa have taken just 1pt from 8 matches v Top Ten teams this season. Decent v Bottom Half but over-reliant on gentleman’s Grealish. He’ll get better, but Villa will get worse, I fear.


Foxes still in the hunt. Rodger that

Those sly old Foxes have won their last eight matches, y’know. And 10 of the previous 11. And the other was away at Liverpool – to a pesky last-minute penalty. Vardy is a gimme – and half of you have already taken the bait. Not sure what’s wrong with the rest of you. Maddison flatters to deceive for me, so save your £7.7m on him and spend £6.6m of it on Tielemans. And consider £5.1m Soyuncu and £5.8m Chilwell ahead of 6.5m Pereira at the back.


Brucies lot are so much better than last season***

Top half Toon offer safe-ish Defensive bets – they’re not getting rolled over, and most of their goals come from the backline. Dúbravka and Willems at £5.0m and £4.7m are value.

***This reference to the late Bruce Forsyth is for Generation X-ers and older. The rest of you, ask a parent.


Let’s be ‘aving you, Norwich.

Pukki is two from 3 and probably still decent 3rd striker value at £6.6m. But it’s not going to get any better for him or Norwich. Cantwell is the best £4.7m you can spend in Midfield.


Sheffield steel not so stainless in recent weeks

We’ve probably seen the best of the Blades, in truth. They haven’t got goals in them, and their early-season clean sheets have dried up – just 1 in the last 6. And we can expect their high-energy style to prompt a winter slump come February. Until then keep a Defender or two on side, but make sure one of them is Lundstram (2nd only to Vardy in popularity).


Bargain basement Brighton worth a look

Defensive dark horses who won’t let you down, particularly at home. Keeper Ryan is the £4.8m pick of the Brighton bunch. And slam Dunk is a decent £4.7m spent - 12.5% can’t be wrong, right?


Wolves hitting their stride

Form places Wolves above Man City, United and Tottenham. And only Leicester have conceded fewer. Jimenez perhaps lacks the killer instinct to convince you to part with £7.6m. But full-back Doherty (at £6.0m) will deliver a nice spread of goals, assists and sheets.


 

 


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A Grade Two Christmas Hamstring

Tuesday, December 10 2019

 

Firstly, this is not a literary piece; it is not peer-reviewed, nor has it been written for those working in football. This article has been written as an opinion piece, and my audience is specifically for the fans, those who play fantasy football, and those who are passionate about the game of football. This piece will no doubt upset and offend many managers and sports medicine practitioners in football. To these people, I make no apologies. To these, I say move on and read no more of what I write, for they are not capable of change and change is the true outcome of all learning.


Flushing Game: Let the dog see the Pheasant

Hamstring injuries in the Premier League are now widely accepted as being part and parcel of the festive period. They are as common as mulled wine, Christmas carols and elves on shelves. Ask John Stones or Patrick van Aanholt if you don’t believe me. And just like another tradition in this country, many more hamstring injuries are sure to be flushed in front of the guns just as an English Springer Spaniel will flush pheasant after pheasant up and down the country this December only for it to be shot from the heavens.


Wounded in battle

Findings from Injury analyst Ben Dinnery are in contrast to that of researchers such as the likes of Ekstrand and his mates: HAMSTRING INJURIES ARE NOT ON THE RISE!!!!! However, it’s not even the middle of December and players such as Allan Saint-Maxim, Nathan Ake, Tyrone Mings and Callum Wilson have already fallen foul of the 16 bore Rizinni shotgun. They have been wounded in action, watched by millions clutching the back of their thighs in agony. Not a fatal shooting, but none-the-less, it was the dreaded hamstring.

Season No. of Hamstring Related Injuries Total Days Lost
2014/15 129 3752
2015/16 169 5255
2016/17 128 4416
2017/18 121 3950
2018/19 121 3643
*2019/20 55 1431
  723 22447

* Up to, and including game week sixteen.

** 'Significant' hamstring injuries. Only those resulting in a player missing at least one game (minimum ten days out). 

*** Only reported injuries during a Premier League season. From game week one, fully inclusive to the final weekend.


The Santa Claus Effect

The incessant onslaught of hamstring injuries over the past five seasons, their tendency to recur upon return-to-play (RTP) have lead to frustration, anger and puzzlement between players, sports medicine staff and managers. Players and managers complain, in part, or incomplete rehabilitation, too many games in too short a period of time, inadequate squad sizes, too much media pressure and being tired; surely they don’t mean overworked and underpaid?!?!

Top Ten teams: Reported Hamstring Injuries from the previous three-years


 


Sports Medicine Twitter Mafia

Then if we take the perspective of the sports medicine guys, all you have to do is jump on Twitter you will find plenty of these people posting about new research regarding the importance of shared decision making when it comes to RTP, how effective Nordics (a type of hamstring strengthening exercise) are at preventing hamstring injuries and rehab videos showing the players supposedly working hard in the gym and sprinting on the field in their quest to get back to fitness. Yet, these injuries continue to occur and reoccur over and over again.


So what’s going on?

You don’t have to have a degree in sports science or have played in the professional game to acknowledge the continual increasing physical demands that the Premier League places on players year on year. It’s not rocket science. It seems that there is no end in sight to the ability of players to run faster and faster for longer and longer.

So rather than managers complaining of the “injury crisis” that they’re club is facing, and how unfair life is, and rather than the sports medicine social media mafia spouting on about research findings on RTP (which is less than adequate by the way), maybe there should be more of an emphasis on the things which might actually make a difference:

  1. Stop managing the club and start coaching the players. The manager to be responsible for team tactics and technical aspects of training only. Unless he is appropriately qualified, he SHOULD NOT assume responsibility for conditioning players.
  2. Let the sport scientists plan the training schedule, volume, intensities and contents. However, and this is important: sport scientists and physios need to do more than what is stated in research papers. The game is faster than the research, and the players are not faster as a result of the training they are currently doing within the club. The game is faster because clubs are RECRUITING faster players. Therefore sport scientists and conditioning coaches need to acknowledge this fact and adjust their training methods accordingly. Go old school: GO BIG OR GO HOME.
  3. Put more of an emphasis on training at the intensity you want to play at rather than keeping players out on the training ground time on end.
  4. Identify players at high risk of injury and limit their playing exposure when possible.
  5. Stop extolling the merits of very poor research in relation to RTP; it’s not fit for purpose yet.

Reported Hamstring Injuries in December 2019

First Name Surname Team Position Further Details Start Date
Tyrone Mings Aston Villa Defender Hamstring Injury Dec-19
Allan Saint-Maximin Newcastle United Midfielder Hamstring Strain Dec-19
Nathan Ake AFC Bournemouth Defender Hamstring Strain Dec-19
John Stones Manchester City Defender Hamstring Strain Dec-19
Callum Wilson AFC Bournemouth Attacker Hamstring Strain Dec-19
Yerry Mina Everton Defender Tight Hamstring Dec-19
Patrick van Aanholt Crystal Palace Defender Hamstring Strain Dec-19

 

In reality, the complexities surrounding hamstring injuries in the Premier League is influenced by a far broader spectrum than Christmas itself or those stated in this opinion piece or any peer-reviewed research for that matter. The nuances in and around the training ground, the treatment room, the gaffer’s office and the boardroom are not yet known to the scientists, the fans, the media. They are under the radar, and yet they play a significant role on an Advent Injury Calendar. This script is still unwritten, watch this space…….


Johnny Wilson


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View from the Boot Room | Week Sixteen

Friday, December 6 2019

 

We had a little glimpse of the future in the Premier League this week…

No, not Man United heading back to former glories. No, not Arsenal’s empire collapsing. And not a preview of Liverpool battering Everton in their FA Cup 3rd tie (although…).

We had the full program of fixtures delivered the same day by Amazon Prime.

My feedback: five stars. On-time and as described.

Alexa…? More of the same, please.


Tap ins…

Surely Tottenham can keep a sheet at home to Burnley. C’mon, Jose. Sort the handbrake out on that bus. I’ll be loading up with Aurier again – who can score at both ends here. Alderweireld and Vertonghen are decent low £5m value too.

And Alli is back to stinging like a bee (after spending much of the last year floating like a butterfly) if you can find room for him.

And Liverpool should extend Bournemouth’s losing run to five. Yes, five. The midweek-rested Salah and Firmino will likely be the difference, but the host’s blunt attack is our guide here. Keep in Allison, Robertson and Alexander-Arnold.

Oh, and, Vardy. Skipper.


Long Shots…

Palace will travel to Watford full of themselves. But I don’t trust Zaha. And at £6.7m Milivojevic is a big punt on Palace getting a penalty. Ayew is rubbish – despite 5% of you taking the £5.1m hit. The keeper Guaita is at least £0.1m more appealing this weekend.

Expect a bounce from Everton. There will, after all, be half a dozen looking to impress ahead of the January window. Especially at the thought of David Moyes being reinstalled. No Silva lining there.

But not enough to blow out Chelsea’s Lamps. Abraham (doubtful), Pulisic and Mount are the goal threat. Pulisic is due one.

Now that Pukki has found his (domestic) shooting boots, he makes a compelling case for you 3rd choice striker. I fancy goals when they host Sheffield United. At both ends. And he looks a better pick than Blades defenders this weekend.


Worth a punt...

How about a West Ham clean sheet? No? Okay, perhaps not. But Cresswell (at £4.7m) and maybe even Yarmolenko (at £5.7m) are worth a tickle because Arsenal are creaking. And only Watford, Villa, Everton and Norwich are worse on the road. And two of those are going down.

Finally, the big one…

I fancy Ruiz to stop AJ late between the 8th – 10th rounds.

You knowz I gotz jokez.

Okay, the Manc derby. United’s front three – Rashford, James and Martial if fit – are everything that City’s back four don’t like. And Pep hasn’t slept in clean sheets since Villa at home, ten matches ago. So ditch defenders on both sides. But if you can get De Bruyne in your side do so. Even at the expense of Sterling.

Yeah, I said it!


 


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What we learned | Week Fourteen

Monday, December 2 2019

Six things we learned this weekend…


Clean Sheets are so last season…

There’s me saying (in Friday’s View From The Boot Room GW 14) that there might be an upswing from the average four or so we’ve been seeing this season. And we top out at 2.

One for Palace, the other West Ham. Who’d have thunk that?

This season it’s all about assists for Defenders. And Jose agrees. He can’t have been happy inheriting the loosest of loose cannons Serge Aurier at Spurs. But has responded by sticking him on the right-wing, maximising his attacking threat. And limited the damage he can do defensively.

Take note. And another thing…


Jose is not quite at the wheel at Tottenham…

Six of the last seven goals Tottenham have shipped have come in the last 20 minutes of the match. The previous four have been when already 3-0 up and the Spurs bus should be safely parked. Very un-Jose like.

My Alderweireld tip was looking rosy on 70-odd minutes; made two, assisted 1, sheet looking handy. But he’s worth persisting with. Mourinho likes a centre-back who can quarterback attacking moves – and if Alli has turned the corner, both will be worth looking into for the rest of the campaign.


Emery out. Mustafi in. But no change at Arsenal…

No-one expected Arsenal’s defensive frailties to disappear overnight. Especially when they saw the team sheet on Sunday. The hapless Mustafi was barely through his first 20 minutes of Premier League action before bundling one into his own net at Norwich.

(If you’re one of the 0.3% FPL managers with him in your ranks, give yourself a Chinese burn).

Pukki will rightly take the credit with his first goal in 8 (as tipped up in Friday’s post, while we are dishing out plaudits). But rear Gunners remain a no no.

In fact, Aubameyang is the only one I’d mess with. Especially versus promoted teams – his retaken penalty was his 10th in 11. Bullying in the workplace.


Have Blade will travel well

Sheffield United extended their unbeaten away record to seven. True, six have been draws. But they are not going to suffer too badly at home so remain a solid pre-Christmas defensive pick. We can expect a wobble/ slump/ gassing at some point, but not yet.

Don’t get carried away with Mousset though. Still has a hint of the talented pub player about for me. Hasn’t finished a game all season and fits Wilder’s philosophy of getting 10-12 good games (and 6-8 goals) out of 3 or 4 average strikers.


Last-minute Leicester look like they smell success

Leicester were far from convincing against Everton but celebrated their last-minute winner like Champions. Surely, they’re not thinking… Not again.

Probably not. But when you have a gen-u-ine (pronounced ‘Jen. You. Wine’) goal scorer in your team, you can do damage. So, if you’re one of the 55% that haven’t yet, do what you have to do to get rat boy Vardy in yours.


Another good week for Li-VAR-pool

Another team that celebrated like Champions after scraping an uncomfortable win.

Their front three have only failed to secure them the points 3 times this season. But someone normally steps up. This time it was the increasingly immaculate Van Dijk. Proving he’s got a bit of everything in his locker.

He might yet add the Ballon D’Or to his CV this season. Messi will probably win it. But after consulting VAR, it will be awarded to Virgil.


 


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View from the Boot Room | Week Fourteen

Friday, November 29 2019

Matt Nesbitt has queued up all night, survived a shop doorway stampede and had an in-store fistfight over a flat-screen TV to bring you his Black Friday rundown…

Thank flip for Fantasy League. It’s a somewhat less than inspiring fixture list, aside from perhaps Newcastle United v Man City - and that’s being generous.

If it wasn’t for the FPL points on offer, you could be forgiven for ditching the Premier League results in favour of a five-episode binge of Come Dine With Me on Saturday afternoon.

That’s what Pochettino will be doing.

Anyway, eyes down…


Tap ins…

It hasn’t been the season for clean sheets - roughly four a week so far. But we could be treated to some laundry this weekend.

Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham and Leicester look handy. And I can see another couple too – but we’ll come on to them in Long Shots.

So, round up the usual suspects – your Robertson’s, your Alexander-Arnold’s; your Pereira’s, your Chilwell’s, and your Soyuncu’s.

Plus, you might even get some value out of those so-far overpriced Chelsea and Tottenham Defenders. At the Bridge, Tomori is the cheapest and best value option. With Azpilicueta up next.

And based on what we’ve seen at Spurs under Jose, I’m going to change tack. I’d already filed Aurier in the ‘Liability’ section – and thought Mourinho would do the same. But I’m wrong.

He’s been relieved of his defensive duties (we agree on that, at least) but instead, he has played in a very advanced right wing-back role, racking up a goal and an assist in his last two (all comps).

Jose likes Alderweireld too.


Long Shots…

I have an inkling there might be another one or two sheets to be snaffled up this weekend too. I could see one at St Mary's. Watford have failed to score in over half their matches this season, and I don’t think Southampton are as bad as their record suggests. Almost. But not quite.

And I’m not the only one among you. Vestergaard features in more teams than Burnley’s Tarkowski – one of the Top Six defensive performers this season – or any Sheffield United defenders (Lundstram aside. Who’s a midfielder in real life).

Speaking of which, I could see clean sheets at both ends in Wolves v Blades. Patricio and Doherty have not yet hit the heights of last season, but are good value at £5.2m and £6.0m.

Wolves are gathering pace. Beaten just once in 14 (all comps), 15pts from a possible 21pts puts them in the Top Four of the form tables. And their quality players are starting to fizz.

And don’t be put off by Sheffield United conceding three last week. They have a tidy run of fixtures betwixt now and Xmas. Cash in on the likes of Henderson, Stevens and – obvs – Lundstram while you can.


Worth a punt…

If you’re looking for goals this weekend, I’m thinking Leicester’s Vardy, Tottenham’s Kane, Burnley’s Barnes and Wood, VAR’s Salah and Mane, Saints’ Ings.

And City’s Jesus has hit seven in his last 8 PL starts. Thankfully, for the Magpies Aguero is out. 15 in 14 v Newcastle.

These are not so obvious: Manchester United’s Martial is due one. Without Tammy pressure mounts on, erm, Mount and Pulisic at Chelsea.

And how about Norwich’s Pukki to end an 8-match barren run – the Finnish finisher has hit 5 in his last 3 for his country, so it’s not like he has lost his scoring touch completely.


 


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What we learned | Week Thirteen

Tuesday, November 26 2019

 

Well, we’ve lasted in the job longer than Poch – and he was a dodgy decision away from winning the Champions League last season.

So while we congratulate ourselves, let’s see what lessons we can learn from GW 13.


An action reply for Li-VAR-pool…

Remember when Man United used to either win 1-0, Cantona. After a series of miracle saves from Schmeichel. Or 3-2 after being 0-2 until the 70th minute…?

Okay, it wasn’t quite like that. But when they marched in Fergie Time, everything seemed to go for them.

Now, of course, it’s all about Kloppage Time. And Jurgen’s lot pulled another 85th rabbit out of a hat at Palace at the weekend. No team has secured more points in the last five(+) minutes of a match so far. And VAR played its part again.

Name on the trophy and all that. But just two clean sheets from 13 so far – and none at home (they racked up 21 last season). So it’s all about goals – with Sadio the Mane man. And Alexander-Arnold and Robertson will assist your points total, of course.


Next stop Tottenham. All change please, all change.

Prepare for a return to fun and mind games at Tottenham. On me ‘ead Son, Moura and Kane made a play to be the front three - and seem more Mourinho's cup of tea than Danish pastry Eriksen.

I wouldn’t be too quick to do an Alli shuffle though. I’m predicting a lot of second half of the season points at the Dele counter.

Jose tried to take Dier and Alderweireld to Man United too. So, they might be worth a look as Mourinho adjusts his rearview mirrors of the Spurs bus.


First-rate third choice strikers

Your first and second choice are easy… Your Aguero’s, Aubameyang’s, Abraham’s or Vardy’s, et al. Easy. That’s why 92% of you have snapped up the last two mentioned.

But your other choice could make the difference. Norwich’s Pukki was the early season dark horse but now looks to have bolted. But there are still a few thoroughbreds out there.

Lone wolf Hhhhhimenez is 3 for 3, cheaper than the five above him (at £7.4m) and warming up nicely. Burnley’s Barnes and Wood might sound like a firm of solicitors, but better value at £6.3m and £6.2m. Hitting over 40 goals between them in the last two seasons.

And at just £6.0m you could do worse than Southampton’s Ings.


Stats, damn stats and lies

  • Burnley are better than Chelsea at home. Conceded just one more goal than City and Liverpool. Tarkowski is 2pts better and £2.2m cheaper than Alexander-Arnold so far.
  • Wolves and Sheffield United are unbeaten on the road. Only Leicester have conceded fewer goals away. Wolves are unbeaten in eight. Jimenez is 3/5 pts better and £2.0/£3.4m cheaper than Firmino and Kane so far.

Check-in on Black Friday for an exclusive 50% off my free tips and advice, as we tackle week fourteen.


 


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View from the Boot Room | Week Thirteen

Friday, November 22 2019

Matt Nesbitt has been eating stats all week. This is what his breath smells like.


Tap ins…

With clean sheets proving hard going – four apiece in the last three GW’s – let’s go for goals, shall we?

Arsenal can’t be relied on for much these days, but they do score goals at home. Only the Top Three have scored more – and the visit of Southampton should be a gimme, for a couple of reasons…

The Saints have only managed 1pt from their last seven. Plus, Arsenal, to arrest a run four games without a win.

Get Aubameyang onside. And Lacazette could be ready to kick-start his season.


Long shots…

Jamie and Tammy face tough-looking away trips, so I’m tempted to look towards ‘Arry Kane impressing his new gaffer. But it could be a weekend for our third-choice strikers. Wood and Barnes should get a few sniffs at Watford. And Villa’s Wesley is a decent £6.0m spent.

If you insist on rummaging around for clean sheets, having a Toffee in your defensive pick ‘n’ mix wouldn’t hurt. Digne has as many assists as sheets.

Leicester have kept three blanks on the bounce and could well make that four at Brighton. And you know my feelings about Soyuncu. No? Oh, well I’ll tell you.

Ready?

At £4.8m he’s £1.4m cheaper than Pereira, but only 6pts worse. And £0.9m cheaper than Chilwell, but so far 1pt better.


Worth a punt…

What price Tottenham’s first clean sheet since mid-September? Followed by several more. Jose is trying to reverse away from his reputation from parking the bus, but his teams don’t concede much. And until recently, Spurs didn’t either – only City and Liverpool shipped fewer goals last season.

I can’t see him fancying Aurier. Or Rose. But Davies and Alderweireld are right up his bus lane.

And we can’t go without giving my man John Lundstrum a mention. Sheffield United’s Scandinavian sounding Scouser has got goals in him (composure, John. Composure). One against Man United would make his season.


Check in next Friday for more stats, damn stats and lies.


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Mo Salah: A Pharaoh Like No Other

Tuesday, November 19 2019

The Footballing Pharaoh

Mo Salah, the modern age footballing Pharaoh, is in danger of having more mythical stories and legends written about his golden boot, how he conquered Europe and terrified mere mortals far and wide across the globe than the ancient Pharaohs themselves. However, like all mythical characters, there is an Achilles heel.


Salah is no Superman

Now, most of you think at this moment in time that I am going to pen some scholarly words pertaining to his poorly ankle to illustrate the kryptonite which pains him so much. However, I don’t think it’s fair to compare Salah to Superman; he’s got enough pressure as it is. From the outside looking in, it would seem that his ankle injury isn’t as severe as is being speculated in the media. I shouldn’t imagine that it will sideline him for the rest of the season; however, I would imagine that it will now take several weeks, possibly between 4 to 6 to settle to a satisfactory level where Mo feels like he is happy to play again, again this is just a humble opinion. Mo is the central character here, and he will ultimately decide when he feels he is ready.


Even the Mighty Egyptians Fell

Just like ancient Egypt is a museum of times gone by, so too are millions of playing careers. If you have recently stopped playing for your Saturday or Sunday league team / 5-a-side team or retired as a professional footballer due to injury or increasing age, then you too will know that a playing career disappears almost without warning and what you thought would never end as an 18-year-old, is now gone in what feels like is no more than the blink of an eye. Now imagine that you are rated as one of the Top Three footballers in the world and you can’t shake an injury which is robbing you of folklore. A gift that has been bestowed upon you but now you are unable to perform. A forecast of 4 to 6 weeks may feel like an eternity, especially if you have attempted to join the front line and failed already. Again, there will be no guarantees upon your next return. Imagine the weight of every Red across the globe lying firmly on your ankle. Imagine your teammates and manager asking you every morning how is your ankle? How would you answer it? How would it make you feel? I’m sure you would agree that the constant attention from all in sundry on this injury would surely have an impact on one's mental health.


Forecasting: A Fools Gold

Forecasting a probable return to play date following a serious ankle injury is a treacherous game indeed. The ankle is a fickle mistress and regaining full pain-free movement can be particularly troublesome. In many cases a lot of professional footballers never regain full movement or function of the ankle post-injury which can lead to a sequelae of future injuries due to the inability to accept or generate forces through the joint. My hunch, in this situation is that this will not be the case with Salah and given the scaffold of the sports medicine team around him at Liverpool, I am sure he will make a satisfactory recovery from a physical standpoint. However, injuries can mentally scar and affect our behaviour when it comes to battle.


The Batman Factor

Jürgen Klopp feels it is “nothing serious”, probably a measure of how good he is as a manager rather than his clinical reasoning skills around ankle injuries. And in fairness to the gaffer, he is handling this injury woe very well indeed. Like Batman, Salah has travelled the earth to seek an answer to ease his pain. However, as is the case with Batman, the answer lies within rather than in some distant foreign land. Salah’s real battle lies not with the restoration of his ankle from a physical standpoint but with his ability to cope mentally with this injury. If he so wishes he can take this opportunity to practice patience, improve his mental resilience, and with this, he will come back an even better player. For within adversity lies opportunity in wait. However, this is easier written than done and will require Salah to make a conscientious effort to culture a strong mindset. He will have to pay particular attention to his thoughts and only attend to those which predict a favourable outcome. 


The problem with Mummification

Unlike as is tradition in Egypt, there is no advantage to wrapping Salah up in Linen bandages, for this will bear no fruit in Champions League warfare. From Salah’s posts on social media, it looks like his rehab is well structured and attends to the skillset needed to play for the Mighty Reds again. During the coming few weeks he will be working on balance, landing mechanics, jumping, hopping, changing direction, running, sprinting and kicking. He is in safe hands, and I am sure he will reign red terror again across Europe.


Johnny Wilson

Fantasy Football Physio Columnist


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What price Ronaldo in the FPL?

Monday, November 18 2019

A Premier League free weekend, so let’s talk stats. And let’s talk an ex-PL star for a minute. Cristiano Ronaldo.


His hat-trick on Thursday (vs Lithuania) - the 55th of his career – took his international goals tally to 98.

Note: By the time you read this he may well have totted up the round ton in Luxembourg.


This only has Ron second on the all-time list though. And we all know that Cristiano doesn’t enjoy coming second.

Mrs Ronaldo might know different, but from the look of her, he does well to get both legs out his Juventus trackie bottoms…

The current (and surely only temporary) international Top Gun is Ali Daei.

No, not the clown that Graeme Souness signed for Southampton because he claimed to be a mate of George Weah. Whose distinguished 53-minute Saints career consisted of four touches – one left foot, one right foot, both shins. And two substitutions – one on (32nd minute), one-off (87th minute).

That’s Ali Dia. I’m talking about Ali Daei. Iran legend and scorer of 109 goals in 149 matches.

Good numbers. But the vast majority of these matches were against the likes of Qatar… Syria… Bahrain… and the Maldives (are there even 11 blokes on the Maldives?). So well done and everything, Ali. But it doesn’t really compare to what Ronaldo has done during his 16 years at the sharp end for Portugal.


Here’s the breakdown

International Friendlies: 17

World Cup Finals: 7

World Cup Qualifiers: 30

Euro Championships: 9

Euro Qualifiers: 30

UEFA Nations League: 3

Confederations Cup: 2

For a bit of context, number three on the list is Pele (with 77). Yes, Pele. Three-time World Cup winner. Fronting the greatest footballing nation. During their greatest ever period of success.

And probably. Arguably. Still. The greatest footballer. Of all time.

Ronaldo is 30 ahead of Messi… 36 ahead of Zlatan… 47 ahead of Henry… So far. And surely it is only a matter of time before Ali Daei’s 109 haul is reeled in. And then folks, that will be that. And we’ll miss him.


Wanna hear my favourite stat about Ronaldo?

A 7th-minute penalty v Atletico Madrid in his final season at Real meant that he has scored at least once in every minute of a match. Including 22 goals in the 90th.

And the most depressing stat?

The only player with a realistic chance of topping Cristiano’s international goal tally…? Romelu Lukaku. The heavy-first-touched one is currently on 51 from 83. Please no.


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What we learned | Week Twelve

Wednesday, November 13 2019

 

Eyes roll. Here we go again…


Jamie Vardy. Goal, assist, 12pts. You’re welcome. Christian Pulisic and Tammy Abraham. Goal and goal. Don’t mention it. Ashley Barnes, goal. My pleasure. Salah, Mane. Goal, goal. Standard. Think nothing of it. Youri Tielemans, assist. No problem. Gerard Deulofeu, another goal (flagged up GW 11). Okay, stop it – this is getting embarrassing...

Unless the Sheffield United defender you added on my advice happened to be George Baldock. In which case, get them in. Kronenbourg. No ice.

Right, what other nuggets can we sift from the shenanigans of GW 12?


Look at the state of those sheets

With a weekend off, it’s time for a period of contemplation to plot our course for the next third of the season.

Let’s start at the back, shall we? It hasn’t been a season for clean sheets. The very best Goalkeepers and Defenders on offer have topped at five. And as they would have to play for Man City, Leicester and Sheffield United it’s clear where the bargains are.

You’ll be sick of me banging on about John Lundstram by now, but he’s the best value 70pts that 41.1% of FPL managers have bagged so far. Only Tammy Abraham is a more popular pick.


Tool up with a Blade or two

He’s a midfielder for a start – and has more goals in him than the three so far, trust me. Get him. Just get him. His And teammates Stevens, Baldock and O’Connell all feature in the Top 10 or so (available at £5.1m, £4.5m and £4.6m).

And after Man United, the Blades have a lovely run of fixtures until 2020.

Make room and save wedge for by dropping City Defenders. With their best Defender and Goalkeeper missing they are this season’s Both Teams To Score (BTTS) bankers.

Leicester’s Soyuncu (at £4.8m) is a cheaper option than fellow back four mates Chilwell, Evans and Pereira too.


Get your Villa in order

Just six teams have scored more goals than Aston Villa. And only City, Chelsea and Liverpool have had more shots on target. So McGinn, Grealish and El Ghazi might well be a more effective £5.8m, £5.9m and £5.5m options than your current Midfield passengers.

And as third choice strikers go, Wesley (at £6m) will get better. But I do like the Burnley three – Wood (£6.2m), Barnes (£6.3m) and Rodriguez (£5.7m) in that order. Only five sides have scored more than Burnley and almost all their goal threat comes from that trio.

But their top points scorer is Dwight McNeil thanks to five assists. Only De Bruyne has more. Double in fact. £16.2m for the pair is a nice compromise.


Check in next Friday for more stats, damn stats and lies.


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The International Injury Minefield

Monday, November 11 2019

 

When the international break arrives, we invariably see a sudden glut of players confined to the treatment room. And, as one of the worlds’ most cosmopolitan leagues, injuries can be difficult to track, but, as always, we will endeavour to do our best throughout the build-up to game week thirteen to give an update, and insight, into the latest player withdrawals:


Tom Heaton (Aston Villa and England)

Injury: Calf

Potential return-to-play (RTP): Game week thirteen (Newcastle United)

🗣 Manager Dean Smith confirmed that the goalkeeper would miss Sundays’ midlands derby at Molineux due to a muscular problem: "Tom Heaton's been struggling with a calf, so I knew he was going to pull out of the game.”


Ross Barkley (Chelsea and England)

Injury: Ankle

Potential return-to-play (RTP): Ongoing issue. No definitive timeline.

🗣 Barkley has not featured since suffering an ankle injury in week nine. Speaking ahead of the game with Crystal Palace, Frank Lampard revealed. “Ross has got an ongoing issue, so he’s not in the squad tomorrow." And when asked about Barkley's possible involvement for the Three Lions, he said. "It’s a conversation I’ll have with Gareth [Southgate] Steve [Holland], Ross and everyone to see how it pans out for him over the next ten days.”


Adama Traore (Wolverhampton Wanderers and Spain)

Injury: Undisclosed.

Potential return-to-play (RTP): Game week thirteen (AFC Bournemouth)

🗣 Traore completed 90 minutes against Aston Villa on Sunday but released a statement via his personal Twitter account within hours of the final whistle confirming his withdrawal from the national team. “It is a shame not to be in the call of the Spanish Football Federation. I want to thank the coach and the entire coaching staff for the trust. I will continue to work hard so that, God willing, I have the opportunity to be summoned again in future calls.”


Josip Drmić (Norwich City and Switzerland)

Injury: Hamstring

Potential return-to-play (RTP): Being assessed.

🗣 The Canaries attacker was introduced as a second-half substitute at Carrow Road on Friday but limped through the closing stages of the game as Daniel Farke had already made three substitutions. The Swiss FA confirmed a day later that Drmic would remain in England “for further medical clarifications” on a muscular injury.


Roberto Pereyra (Watford and Argentina)

Injury: Hamstring.

Potential return-to-play (RTP): Being assessed.

🗣 Pereyra pulled up on the half-hour mark at Norwich due to an apparent hamstring problem. The attacker had been called up for the upcoming friendly internationals against Brazil and Uruguay which are due to take place in Saudi Arabia and Israel.


Christian Pulisic (Chelsea and United States)

Injury: Hip

Potential return-to-play (RTP): Being assessed. Hopeful for week thirteen (Manchester City)

🗣️ USMNT Head Coach Gregg Berhalter confirmed on Monday that Christian Pulisic would not be joining the squad after he picked up a knock during the win over Crystal Palace. “The only frustration is he comes off with a bit of an injury,” Chelsea boss Frank Lampard said on Saturday. “He was going to be subbed before he scored his goal, he’s got a bit of a hip issue, but I’m hoping it’s not too bad because the way he’s in full flow at the moment is great to see.”


Lloyd Kelly (AFC Bournemouth and England Under-21s)

Injury: Thigh

Potential return-to-play (RTP): Being assessed. No timeline.

🗣️ Kelly has been on the fringes of the first-team squad since his arrival from Bristol City in the summer. The Cherries boss confirmed on Saturday that the 21-year-old has a “thigh problem” which was likely to rule him out of the upcoming internationals against Albania and the Netherlands.


Aaron Connolly (Brighton and Republic of Ireland)

Injury: Groin

Potential return-to-play (RTP): Hoping to be ready for week thirteen (Leicester City)

🗣️ The Brighton attacker was forced off during Sundays’ defeat at Old Trafford and was sent for further tests on Monday. Ireland manager Mick McCarthy confirmed his withdrawal later that day. "Our team doctor Alan Byrne has spoken to the Brighton medical team and had a look at the scans. The scans have confirmed the groin injury, and Aaron won't be ready for New Zealand and Denmark."


Scott McTominay (Manchester United and Scotland)

Injury: Ankle

Potential return-to-play (RTP): Assessments continue. Expected to be several weeks.

🗣️ Scott McTominay could be sidelined until mid-December following an initial scan which suggests the United midfielder suffered ligament damage against Brighton. "He went over on his ankle. It's a painful one,” revealed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. "I've had one, and I was out for eight weeks. But then again sometimes you're back in two weeks, so I don't know. It looked painful, and he's not one for rolling around."


 


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View from the Boot Room | Week Twelve

Friday, November 8 2019

 

Tap ins

Jamie Vardy is in decent nick – he’s hit 10 for the season, including 7 in the last five - and he loves a goal against (artists formerly known as) Top Four teams.

Leicester have won 5 out of 6 – and the other was away at Liverpool. Arsenal look rudderless. No away wins so far and only 2pts from three matches. Plus, the change of shop steward suggests to me that they are teetering on the edge.

So, load up on Leicester defenders too. And if you’ve got Youri Tielemans in the ranks, pat him on the back and tell him he’s doing a great job.


Long Shots

Manchester City haven’t enjoyed going to Anfield much in recent years.

They’ve only managed one clean sheet since Rodri’s hamstring ping on Champions League duty. And he was hardly the answer at Centre Back. The mobility, pace and poise of Salah and Mane will cause headaches, and Firmino could run amok. Any and all are recommended.

The Ox – or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to his friends – is worth a nibble at £6.2m too. He looks full of it since his return, hitting 4 in his last five.

Chelsea should push past Palace. Christian Pulisic has forced his feet under the table of late – and his presence might help Tammy Abraham out of his dry spell (just 1 in his previous five). At £7.9m and with Chelsea full of goals (29 so far), he’s worth persisting with.


Speculative Lobs from distance

I’m also tempted to go back in on Anthony Martial. Man United’s No.9 ranked as a midfielder in days gone by would’ve been a stick-on – van Persie… Nistelrooy… Cole… oof! I should coco. But even so, Le Sulk could prove his worth at £7.7m v Brighton.

Burnley should get back to winning ways v West Ham too. Yes, they’ve lost their last three, but they punch their weight at home. And the Hammers are five without a win.

Rodriguez and Barnes are both reasonably priced third choice frontmen (at £5.7m and £6.3m).

Yer man, Jimenez (Wolves) tickles my fancy v Villa too. He’s a bit streaky – currently four in 5, after a run of seven blanks, four in 4 before that. So, might be in an upswing although it’s got 1-1 written all over it.

As has Tottenham v Sheffield United. Blades are unbeaten on t’ road and Spurs haven’t tasted victory in 4. Could easily be five so keep Lundstram on side at the very least.

And with one bloodshot eye on the next couple of months, you could do worse than stock up with another Sheffield United defender. Or two. After Tottenham and Man United, they have a tidy looking run of Wolves, Newcastle, Norwich… then Villa, Brighton and Watford.

More clean sheets than a Chinese laundry. Is that racist? I don’t think so.


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Andre Gomes: 'Full Recovery' or Return to Play

Tuesday, November 5 2019

 

The Club, The Player, The Person. They’re not the same!!!

Everything is great until it isn’t

It’s impossible to truly define what football is. Sure you can referee it and score it, but can you really define it? It has the ability to help us forget the mundane of the 9 to 5, stir up hopes, dreams, aspirations and creativity. It can simultaneously tear apart and bring together families, neighbours, communities, cities and countries. It is the matriarch of a Friday night in the pub with your mates when speculating your starting XI for your fantasy team. But the name on everyone’s tongue at the moment is that of Andre Gomes, the Everton midfielder who suffered a fracture-dislocation of his ankle at the weekend and had surgery on Monday. Thankfully, Everton FC have stated that the procedure was a success and Andre is expected to make a “full recovery”. In this piece I’m going to discuss the nuance between making a full recovery and returning to play and how the two are not necessarily the same. I’ll touch upon what success looks like for club and player and what the duty of care Everton and their medical staff have for Gomes.


Return to Play Speculation from the “Experts”

A fracture-dislocation of the ankle can certainly cause chaos within the joint. There are plenty of so-called “medical experts” touting on social media their expected return to play timeframes, what damage the ligaments, cartilage and bones may be subjected to and the contents and legitimacy of surgical intervention to maximise Gomes chances of making a speedy return to play. A lot of nonsensical speculation: something I’m not going to cover. I’ll let the “experts” take the lead on this aspect rather than adding my own “mystic meg” return to play predictions into the mix.


Return to play is possible, but is full recovery a reality?

Injury analyst Ben Dinnery posted return to play timeframes for this type of injury. Firstly, this data proves that this injury is not always career-ending and that it is possible to return from a fracture-dislocation within as little as 138 days (Aymeric Laporte). However, when you analyse the data a little more, it would appear that this number is an optimistic outlier and that it is more likely that Gomes will return next season rather than this, as the average return to play timeframe is 225 days. Be warned though; this data is merely a documentation of when players have returned from this type of injury in the past, that does not mean that it was the right, it also doesn’t mean it was wrong either. It is a return to play date not a definitive indicator that any of these players had made a full recovery following injury.


What exactly do Everton mean by a “full recovery?"

Were Everton FC referring to Gomes’ ankle joint? Is the club stating that his ankle will function the same as the other one? Or are Everton FC commenting on his psychological status? Does it mean that psychologically, Gomes will contest every ball in the same manner as he did before this injury for the Toffees? Are the club stating that this injury will not cut short his career in professional football? Are they stating that his ankle joint will be able to tolerate the toll of training and playing week in week out in the Premier League for the next ten years? Does a “full recovery” mean that he won't suffer from post-traumatic osteoarthritis of his ankle joint in 15 to 20 years time (still a young man) and need further surgical intervention to manage pain, stiffness and decreasing function? Or are they speaking out to the Everton fans that Gomes will make a “full recovery” to play for the club again? There are many factors which can influence whether a player makes a “full recovery” or not. The figure below from the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine depicts beautifully the complexity of return to play decisions.


We are not the only ones playing Fantasy Football

The reality of playing professional sport is that players are a commodity; they are the product on the pitch in which the club have invested. In terms of Everton and Gomes, or any other player for that manner: will the primary concern be with the long term health and well-being of the player or is the outcome measure for success how many days it takes for Gomes to return to play?. Let’s say he returns in 225 days, the average for this type of injury, and this is recognised as a successful return to play by the club. However, let’s play devil's advocate for a moment and fast forward five years and imagine that Gomes is forced to retire due to ongoing ankle issues. Should this be defined as a “full recovery” just because he played football again or is it more factual that we term it a “return to play” date?


The Duty of Care

The duty of care is on the surgeon and the medical staff to keep in mind the long term sequelae of such an injury rather than focusing on a return to play date. Injuries of this nature (joint-related especially) shouldn’t be rushed. We shouldn’t be looking to put in place an accelerated protocol to hasten a return to play. The ankle joint and the player need time to recover from this traumatic event. The expectations of the player, manager, stakeholders and fans need to be addressed early on, and the big picture needs to be taken into consideration. What might look like a successful return to play for Everton FC might be far removed from what success looks like for Andre Gomes as a person.


I Doff My Hat

The consequences of serious injury in sport are far-reaching and complex. And although it is encouraging that surgery went well, the real work begins now with the medical team. The months ahead in the gym, on the bike, in the pool, on the treatment table, one to one with the physio will be the true determinant of what success looks like for Gomes and Everton. In fairness to Everton FC they stated that Gomes is expected to make a “full recovery”, they never commented on a return to play date, therefore, it would be reasonable to suggest that the club is ensuring everything is done so that Gomes’ health and well-being is at the foremost rather than when he will next play for the Toffees. I would expect nothing less from a such great club with a super bunch of fans. With that said I doff my hat to Everton Football Club: Take a bow.


Best wishes

 

Johnny Wilson

Football Physio Columnist


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What we learned | Week Eleven

Monday, November 4 2019

 

You might think this FPL business is all ‘…I’ve seen the keeper off his line, had a go and lucky enough it’s gone in…’. But no. Every round leaves us a trail of breadcrumbs that lead us to better decisions next time.

This is where GW 11 led us…


Liverpool really DO have the look of champions

And maybe the luck too. I’ve said it before, and I daresay I will again. But the stars are aligning for the Kloppites this season.

Coming from behind to snatch the points from a spirited Villa in front of their raucous home support had all the hallmarks of champions.

Sadio was again the Mane man. Assisting and scoring his way to another 12pts. Hitting his third – count ‘em, third! - 90+ minute goal of the year. Andy Robertson also reminded anyone that needed reminding that he is arguably the best full-back in the Premier League. And the only argument is coming from his opposite flank.

Liverpool have now started the season better than any team since Jimmy Greaves’ double-winning Tottenham in 1960/61. It’s a funny old game.


Man City can come from behind though

Long way to go, of course. City’s 2-1 win followed a similar path to that of their title rivals. But it’s becoming clear that any success they enjoy this season will be down to their front players.

Their defence and midfield look as soft-centred as it has done for a couple of seasons, so don’t expect any clean sheets from their next couple. Liverpool, then Chelsea will fancy they can hurt them.


Sharp Blades = clean sheets

If it’s clean sheets you want, restock your backline with some Sheffield steel.

Their almost stainless recent record (four shutouts from six) could in the next two – Spurs, then Man United. But after that, they have a very tidy looking run of fixtures - Wolves, Norwich, Villa, Brighton and Watford - which should take them into 2020 comfortably in the Top Half.

And provides you with a low-cost pre-Christmas shopping list. The top of which should be John Lundstram. If you’re not one of the 37% (and growing) already.

For starters, he’s a midfielder listed as a defender. So he’ll bag you clean sheet points. Plus, he’s got goals in him - two (should’ve been three) at the weekend, with more to come. And he’s trading at £4.8m. Do it, brothers and sisters. Unless there’s a gift horse, you know about with a gob you’d rather be staring at.


Stick with me, and you’ll be wearing diamonds

But if there’s only one lesson we can collectively learn this weekend, let it be this one: you need to make reading this column part of your pre-match ritual.

In Friday’s View From the Boot Room, I gave you goal scorers Pulisic, Aubameyang and Deulofeu… I pulled a 21pt Blade on you – Lundstram’s brace, sheet and star player bonus… And even cooked up a baker’s dozen (13pts) from Lys Mousset.

His two assists were either brilliantly flukey, or fooking brilliant depending on your viewpoint. But either way – you’re welcome.


That one was free. But remember where you got it.

Check in next Friday for more of that good stuff.


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View from the Boot Room | Week 11

Friday, November 1 2019

 

Matt Nesbitt has dusted off his crystal balls and gazes into the immediate future…


Tap ins…

The value of Sterling remains high this week as City host Southampton. Don’t expect another 9-0 drubbing (although you never know…), but they’ll be plenty of points to share in the Etihad home dressing room.

De Bruyne leads the list of usual suspects - Aguero, Jesus, the Silva’s et al. - with nine assists in 10.

I’m sticking with Pascal Gross too. If my PG tip was your cup of tea last week, this week’s home fixture with Norwich wouldn’t put you off. He’s the leading dead ball chance provider in the Premier League and could double up with a clean sheet too.

Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic has earned a recall with his hat-trick at Burnley. Captain America has not made a £58m impact so far – or a £7.2m one, to be Frank. But if Lamps is ready to cut him loose, he could be a valuable Winter Soldier.

And £4.7m bargain Blade of the season John Lundstram stays. Sheffield United have blunted better teams than Burnley this term. And 35m of us can’t be wrong.


Long shots

That Man United have had their best couple of weeks for a while. For me (there’s only) Wan Bissaka is the pick, especially if he keeps the wing-back role. Can’t cross a road, but a game boy.

Unlike Ben Chilwell. He’s up there with Liverpool’s full-back pairing for assists since Brendan has been at the wheel at Leicester. They won’t hit 9 but should be okay at Palace.

Aubameyang is due one too. Don’t be lured in by Arsenal’s flakiness – at home they are decent. Six wins and two draws from eight, scoring 22 along the way.


Speculative lob from a distance…

Three goals from seven league appearances mean that Sheffield United’s Lys Mousset has suddenly become a player? It was three goals from 58 career Premier League matches previously. Might be worth a £4.9m punt.

And I’ve got a sneaky one for Watford’s Gerard Deulofeu (v Chelsea). Had a bit of a shocker so far, but he’s a player. And isn’t afraid of a big occasion.


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The Story of Boly’s Hans Krankl: Behind every great Tibia, you will find a formidable Fibula!

Tuesday, October 29 2019

 

Let’s start at the end: answer the questions on the lips of those who follow the mighty Wolves or have Willy Boly in their Fantasy Football team:

  1. Will Boly require surgery on his ankle?
  2. Is this a serious injury?
  3. How long will he be out for?
  4. Is he likely to break this bone again?
  5. Will this type of injury affect his future performances for Wolves?

Does he require surgery?

The reason for obtaining a surgical opinion for this type of injury is that it is most likely that the fracture (break) is located very near to Boly’s ankle over a part of the fibula which is called the lateral malleolus. This is the knobbly part on the outside of your ankle.

You most probably have injured the ligaments which attach to this part of your ankle when you sprained it playing 5-a-side with your mates at Powerleague or, as in my case, with the Dog and Duck on a Sunday morning. It’s best practice in professional football to cover all management options early on for this type of injury so that it can be decided if surgery is required or not. Surgery is generally indicated if the tibia and fibula aren’t aligned very well, the bone is fractured into many pieces, or all the ligaments have been torn, which, if left unoperated, could lead to poor healing causing instability, poor function of the ankle and possibly a higher risk of future injury.

The Wolves Effect

However, Boly is in the hands of the very experienced and excellent clinician Phil Hayward, so you can all be very assured that no stone will go unturned in making sure that he returns to the frontline as quickly and as safely as possible.


Is this a serious injury?

The fibula is a long flimsy bone with not much substance to it at all (I know a few people like this). It cowers in the shadow of its imposing brother the tibia. And while the tibia is laboured with most of the work when it comes to bearing the weight of Boly’s body as he lunges in a menacing fashion cutting down centre forward after centre forward, his fibula plays a more nuanced role when it comes to the function of his Hans Krankl (ankle).

The Fibula: A Wolf in Sheep’s clothing

The fibula attaches to the tibia close to the knee and also at the ankle. While it doesn’t do much for the knee joint, it is a major player when it comes to the ankle. It allows just enough movement at the ankle joint to be able to run, turn, sprint, kick and change direction explosively which Boly is renowned for. The fibula also restricts motion, not just for the purpose of bringing Boly to a halt after one of his lung-bursting runs into an opponents' box, but to provide a sense of stability to enable him to do so time and time again. Therefore, although it may not look like much to the eye, the fibula plays a crucial role in the Premier League.


How long will he be out for?

If it’s a simple fracture, and what I mean by simple is that it does not require a surgeon to drive a nail through it to patch up its relationship with the tibia, then the likelihood is that he may be looking at a period of between 6 weeks (optimistic) and 12 weeks (I’m playing it safe here). However, and please trust me on this one, nothing is ever “Simples” when it comes to the Meerkat ankle!!!

The Rehab Journey

I’ve detailed the task-based criteria rehab journey that he is likely to go through in a piece I wrote recently about Paul Pogba’s ankle injury. You can check it out here… 

What Has Ben got to say?

Data on ankle injuries from Ben Dinnery at Premier Injuries shows us that injuries to the ankle are very prevalent, costly but surprisingly, on average don’t cause significant time loss; however, I suspect Boly will be out for a lot longer than 25 days!!


The weight of a club on one man’s Fibula:

Boly’s status at the club is very high. He is a defensive lynchpin. I don’t know if you could liken Boly to either the tibia or the fibula, such is his importance to Wolves, and I only mention this as it will organically place a lot of pressure, media attention and expectations on the player and the medical staff to return to war as quickly as possible. His dominance in the air and ferociousness in the tackle may influence the risk the club, and the player, are prepared to take. Let’s say his proposed return to play date is the end of December and Wolves lose a key member of their defence two weeks prior. What would you do? Would you wait another week, or would you play him early?

Are you prepared to risk everything for the badge?

It comes down to attitude towards risk and Boly’s approach to risk (more importantly, for that matter). Does he value the positioning of Wolves in the league table more than he does his own fibula? What would you do if you were Boly? Would you take the risk of returning too early and increase your chances of suffering a recurrence, which in turn, could lead to surgery, a prolonged absence from the team and possibly miss your train ticket to the Europa League final? It’s a hell of a lot of pressure on one man’s shoulders, but even more pressure on a not yet healed fibula!!! I’ll let you mull that one over for yourself. As I said, nothing is “simples” when it comes to the ankle.


Hope you enjoyed the read guys


Johnny Wilson

Fantasy Football Physio Columnist

 


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What we learned | Week Ten

Monday, October 28 2019

Liverpool have the look of Champions

A last-minute penalty at Leicester… A late equaliser at Man United… coming from behind to beat Tottenham… Klopp’s lot are showing all the hallmarks of title winners. Mane or Salah or both are stick-ons.

As are at least one of their phenomenal full-backs – Alexander-Arnold just pips Robertson for me, but their numbers are similar. Liverpool are not racking up the clean sheets that were a feature of last season – only two so far (both away) – but they swung in 25 assists between them last term. And are on three apiece already this.


James Maddison. Not having it.

Far be it from me to take a swipe at Leicester after handing out a holy beating to the Saints. But sorry, James. I’ve lost patience.

For me, if you’re putting nine past a team your No. 10* should be running amok - getting 2 or 3 goals and 3 or 4 assists. Maddison scored once, from a set-piece. Which he is well capable of – he’s a talented boy. But I think he’s got a touch of the Adam Lallana’s about him.

Both are lovely footballers. Very easy on the eye. Neat, tidy, beautifully balanced. But ultimately flatter to deceive, in my opinion. And Leicester have a better FPL option in the ranks.

(*Yes, I know him, and Youri Tielemans share attacking responsibilities – I’m getting to that...).

Maddison’s Belgian midfield partner has become the man at the King Power. Same goals and assists, but looks more dynamic than James. And £0.8m cheaper.


Where are you, Pukki? Let’s be ‘aving you…

Everyone’s favourite Fin has run aground over the last month. His six goals in 5 matches ratio was never destined to last. But the likes of Burnley, Palace, Villa, Bournemouth – and even Man United these days – should’ve been more productive for Teemu and Norwich alike. So, we can expect his 30 per cent ownership to dwindle over the coming weeks.


But Blades are here to stay. For a while, at least.

On the flip side, Sheffield United dug out another decent result at the weekend. And although it is still likely to be a long, hard season for the Blades – their attacking threat is likely to diminish before their defensive resilience does.

So, defender John Lundstram remains the bargain of the season so far. Only Riccardo Pereira (at Leicester) has performed better – which is why he is mixing with FPL’s biggest hitters in the selection stakes (with 34.9% take-up).

Only Tammy Abraham and Mason Mount (CHE), Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva (MC) and Virgil Van Dijk (LIV) are more popular picks.


 


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View from the Boot Room | GW 10

Friday, October 25 2019

 

Matt Nesbitt has taken a cock-eyed squint at the weekend’s fixture list to see where the FPL points are coming from…


Tap ins…

City are bankers.

Sergio Aguero likes a Villa. And not just for holidays (although I bet he has got a fancy place back in Bueno Aries – all white pillars and outdoor sofas…). He has scored 6 in his four matches against Aston Villa (5 in 3 at home). Primed and ready to do damage.

If he can get a game, that is. (see Worth a punt… below)

Raheem Sterling is missing fewer chances this season too. Can add to his midweek three here.

De Bruyne and the Silva’s will be squabbling over assists. But have a look elsewhere for clean sheets. Rodri and Zinchenko are both out for up to six weeks. And that clumsy bleeder Otamendi is back.

Load up on Gunners v Palace too.

Despite being moody blighters, Arsenal are handy at home. Seven from 8 so far, with 20 scored. And despite their lofty 6th place, Palace have only chalked up 8pts from a possible 42pts in their last 14 v Top Six.

And I doubt they’ll repeat their Emirate heroics of last season. So get on Arsenal’s front players to run something of amok.

Tough call between Lacazette and Aubameyang, but I’m going the former. Even if he starts on the bench.


Long shots…

Chris Wood (Burnley in case you’re struggling) is more functional than fashionable. His shirt never quite seems big enough to me. But he knows where the net is (if not the mirror) – scoring in his last four outings. Could be the man against Chelsea’s boys. BD - although tread carefully as the striker faces a late test.

Callum Wilson has 5 PL goals (from nine) for Bournemouth. And won’t be hanging around with a more generous back four for a while.

And I’ve got a sneaky feeling for yer man Teemu Pukki. After a blistering start – 6 in five - everyone’s favourite Finn has hit four blanks in a row. Will fancy it against United’s wobbly back four/ five though. Let’s be ‘aving you!


Worth a punt…

Gabby Jesus is 7 for 7. And started at Palace.

Brighton midfielder Pascal Gross has created more chances from set-piece chances than anyone in the PL apart from Everton’s Gylfi Sigurdsson. Whose teammates are shocking on the road – just a single goal and zip points so far. PG might even fancy a clean sheet too.

And Sheff United won’t concede more possession v the Hammers as they did v the Gunners. A clean sheet isn’t off the cards. And holding midfielder John Lundstrum is listed as a defender – so I think I know who’s winning.


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Pogba: It’s undoubtedly a Duck

Tuesday, October 22 2019

 

An insight into his rehab journey: Manchester → Dubai → Manchester

The Media Myth

There are several reports circulating that Paul Pogba has a “cracked toe”. Let’s put THIS speculative media claim to the test:

  1. If Pogba had a “cracked toe” then he certainly wouldn’t have a cast over his ankle and have nothing to protect his “cracked toe”.
  2. The fact that Pogba has heavy protection over his ankle would indicate that he does have an ankle injury.
  3. The fact that United themselves have stated that it is an ankle injury would lead to the conclusion that it is an ankle injury. Why would they lie? This would cause significant problems in the long run, and there is no advantage gained by disguising an ankle injury as a toe injury.

If it waddles like a duck

If it quacks like a duck

If it looks like a duck

Then its most probably a… *see blog title*


Weight-bearing Status

The current advice for injuries to the ankle is to weight-bear as tolerated (pain) as soon as possible to maintain strength and function of the foot and ankle as much as possible. It is only in very serious cases where the player would be advised to immobilise and rest the ankle completely (fracture-dislocation etc.)

Partial Weight Bearing

Pogba is currently “partial weight-bearing” which basically means that he is putting as much weight as he can tolerate through his ankle. As his pain levels decrease and his function and confidence in the ankle improve, he will quickly progress to full weight-bearing. It stands to reason and is common sense that he needs to be able to take all his body weight through this ankle before he can progress to more dynamic movements such as running, jumping, changing direction and kicking a ball (discussed later).


Off-Feet Conditioning Phase

Looking at Pogba’s Instagram posts, his rehab tasks have been focused around “off-feet conditioning”. This is where the player is carrying out his rehab in either a sitting or lying down or partial weight-bearing position so that he is not bearing the full weight of his body through his ankle. An in all fairness to Pogba he is maximising every opportunity during this phase to improve his aerobic fitness levels (general fitness - bike work), anaerobic fitness levels (ability to carry out multiple sprints during a game(rope work)) and power (medicine ball throwdowns). He is also most definitely working on his overall leg, core and upper body strength and power qualities during this phase too.

Warm weather conditioning

Why not? As long as the works gets nailed, then does it really matter where he does it?

Next stop: On-feet Conditioning

Once everything goes to plan, and he has no setbacks in his rehab journey then he can progress to activities which require him to weight-bear through his ankle, for example, lower limb gym strengthening exercises (squats/lunges/calf raises/jumping/hopping). If he does not react to these activities, then he can quickly progress to grass-based rehab. He will also most likely continue his off-feet conditioning to keep on improving his fitness levels.


Grass-based Rehab

This includes activities like jogging, running, sprinting, ball work etc. As a rule of thumb, two weeks is advised at the very least to cover this type of conditioning. Essentially, the team at United will be trying to gradually expose Pogba to running volumes, intensities, game-related activities and scenarios which he will be faced with when he returns to full squad training. Sometimes this period can take a little longer and occasionally the player will request to return to squad training earlier than advised. It’s a dark art rather than a fine science!!

Time to return to train

This is the period when Pogba will transition from 1 to 1 sessions with the fitness staff to training with the squad. Some managers like the player to be fed in gradually to the squad sessions while other managers prefer to wait until the player can participate fully - so this will come down to Ole’s preference here. Again, as a physio I always like to see players complete 2 weeks of full training before transitioning back to play, however, this is usually not dictated by the medical staff and is rather decided upon by the player and coaching staff following a risk analysis from the sports medicine team about the risks of re-injury when returning a player to competition. It’s important to recognise here that the risk of re-injury never goes away, it’s merely tempered through strategies which might help to reduce the ugly head of re-injury appearing again. It’s a very tough time for all involved, and no matter how long or rigorous the rehab is, there is always something lurking under the bed!! Proceed with caution.


Time to return to play

Given the above timeline, social media pictures, stage of his rehab, his weight-bearing status, it would be reasonable to suggest that Pogba is still several weeks away from playing for United again. However, rather than basing his return to play solely on time as the ultimate criterion, it will more likely be based on his ability to complete high-intensity football-specific tasks.

I hope this snapshot helps. 


Johnny

Fantasy Physio


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Concussion

Tuesday, October 22 2019

A heads-up on football head injuries

There’s a famous old football story that has gained its subject - the former Partick Thistle manager John Lambie - more notoriety than his playing or managerial career ever did. It goes like this:

During a Scottish League match Lambie’s then centre-forward Colin McGlashan suffered a serious clash of heads with a rival. Lambie’s assistant Gerry Collins examined the injured player on the side of the pitch and reported back that McGlashan “didn’t know who he was”.

To which Lambie quipped: “Tell him he’s Pele and send him back on”.


Head injuries are no joke

It’s a funny line. Enjoyed countless times in after-dinner speeches. I’ve heard both Harry Redknapp and Sam Allardyce retell the story (as their own – but you wouldn’t expect any more from either of them).

It was chosen as the title of a best-selling book of football anecdotes. And the tale was even retold at Lambie’s funeral in April last year. As an epitaph, of sorts.

But in the light of recent research about dementia among former footballers, it is perhaps not such great bantz after all.


Ex-footballers 3 General Public 1

A report published this week found that ex-professional players are three and a half times more likely to die of dementia than people of the same age in the general population.

Former West Brom great Jeff Astle developed dementia and died in 2002 aged 59. The inquest into his death found that repeated heading heavy leather footballs had caused trauma to his brain.

The FA and PFA reluctantly began research into the matter, but soon dropped the ball due to ‘technical’ flaws. Standard. We can only assume that there weren’t enough long, liquid lunches and backhanders on offer to hold their interest. Or – to be fair – it might just have been a bit too much like actual work.


Another open goal missed by the FA

So it fell to Alan Shearer to highlight the case in his tawdry, ego-soaked documentary ‘Dementia, Football and Me’. (I use the term ‘highlight’ loosely. Astle does get a mention, but the program starts and ends with reminders of Shearer’s goal scoring record. And could just as easily been titled: Alan Shearer: Me, Me and Me).

What Alan fails to remind the viewer of when he tried to kick Neil Lennon’s head off (v Leicester, in April 1988) – for which he received no FA sanction, so he was clear to captain England in the impending World Cup warm-up matches. Not sure how that sits with his faux concern about head trauma.

Nor does he mention his punditry advice to Wayne Rooney to ‘smack Ronaldo in the mouth’ following Winkgate. Or his suggestion that Croatian centre forward Mandzukic should’ve ‘smashed’ the Russian goalkeeper when he had the chance in extra-time, during last summer’s World Cup Quarter Final. So Akinfeev he wouldn’t have been able to play on during the penalty shootout.

Perhaps he’s suffering memory loss. He did score a lot of goals with his head.


Matt Nesbitt swapped his short unspectacular career in the English lower divisions for a much more successful one as a football tipster. He now has a proper job.


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Five things we learned | Week Nine

Monday, October 21 2019

 

There are no goal scorers any more.

Only four of the 15 goals scored on Saturday were scored by recognised centre forwards. That is, number 9s. And out of the four – Jamie Vardy, Chris Wood, Raul Jimenez and Danny Ings (all do actually wear the No. 9 shirt, bizarrely) – Vardy is the only one you would hang your hat on to get near 20 goals this season.

Jimenez, for all his quality, spends most of his time outside the box. Wood has to share the role with two other players (see point 3) and Ings will have to work hard for chances this season. Although he has started well.

And it doesn’t help matters when Man City start Sergio Aguero on the bench. C’mon Pep, give FPL managers a break here!

 

We’ve seen the last of Otamendi and Stones lining up together for Man City.

Pep starting two central midfielders (Rodri and Fernandinho) ahead of Stones at Palace this weekend tells us one of two things: A, he was confident that City would dominate the ball and didn’t need a recognised centre back. Or B, he doesn’t fancy Stones. Because dealing with the ball at his feet is a problem for him.

The Norwich shambles was a match too far for the Otamendi-Stones partnership. And both are playing for their Man City futures until Aymeric Laporte comes back. Expect City to go big in January.

 

Burnley have a surplus of centre forwards. And decent ones too.

Picking a good value ‘second’ and perhaps even ‘third’ frontman is crucial. And Burnley used to be a ripe picking ground. You’ve got Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes – two solid, dependable double-figures per season men (ten and twelve respectively in 2018/19, and both on four this) who you know are going to start every week.

But adding Jay Rodriguez this season has potentially created a problem – which two do you pick from the three when Barnes returns from injury.

 

Marcos Alonso has woken up. At Last.

The beautifully coiffured Chelsea full-back has been an essential fixture for the last couple of seasons – and blitzed through the opening months in 2018/19, leaving the likes of Raheem Sterling and Mo Salah eating dust early on. But this season, not so much.

However, a goal and an assist in the last two suggest he is awaking from his slumber. Plus, Chelsea – sorry, Frank Lampard’s Chelsea – look a more solid proposition of late, with consecutive clean sheets at home. Okay, okay, it was only Brighton and Newcastle, but in a season where clean sheets are few and far between, Chelsea will rack up as many as anyone.

BD – It will be interesting to see how Lampard rotates around the Champions League when Emerson, who is very close to a return following a hamstring injury, is ready to play. The Italian defender has been the preferred option in the league – when fit – although the Blues have only won one of their five games he has started. In contrast, Chelsea have won all four with Alonso, scoring more (12v7) and conceding less (3v11).

 

In Tottenham, we don't trust. 

All is not well at Spurs. That’s obvious. Whether it is down to the alleged shenanigans with Mrs Eriksen – c’mon, we’ve all seen the Tweets. Or perhaps the ongoing speculation about Pochettino, it’s not a happy camp.

On the field, all three departments are struggling. Up top, Harry Kane is doing his bit, but Heung-Min Son doesn’t look the player of last season. The back four (sometimes five) has clocked up just one clean sheet, shipping nine goals in four away trips. And in between, it’s hard to name one certain starter from one game to the next.

Fact. They have only beaten Palace, Southampton and Villa in 12 matches this season.


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Nothing more than a charlatan

Thursday, October 3 2019

 

The “Expert” Football Physio / Sport Scientist:

 

I'm going to cut straight to the chase for this piece as I know we are all time-crunched these days: It is generally perceived that certain people are termed “experts” in professional football. Let me dispel some expert myths right now on the so-called expert physio/sport scientist/S&C.

 

You are not an expert just because:

YOU work in the Premier League

YOU have treated/ worked with a famous person

YOU have a big following on social media

YOU are published in a scientific journal

YOU are part of the “clique” “cool gang” or mafia as I like to call you. Needless to say, I have never been in the cool gang.

YOU are a social climber and will only talk to someone if you want something from them.

YOU always voice your opinion on social media as the only way to do something right

YOU are invited to speak at international conferences because YOU either:

  • Work in the Premier League
  • Treated a famous person
  • Published an article
  • Have a big social media following
  • Spoke at another conference etc. - you get my point right!!

 

First things first, if you are any of the above - get over yourself!!!

The above points might be very desirable to some people, but they are certainly not pre-requisites of what constitutes being assigned the “expert” tag.

 

You are only an expert if you work in the Premier League *emoji face* joke!

Let’s take working in the Premier League as an example. And let me be very, very clear here – it is the athlete who is the expert, not the support staff, be you a physio or sport scientist, no matter how good you might think you are - sorry to burst your bubble!! The recruitment process for a player (and associated pay package) couldn’t be any further from the recruitment of the support staff (and hence is reflected in their salary too).

 

Social Media Bullies:

I know plenty of physios/sport scientists/S&C’s who “piggyback” on the success of the athletes/club they work with and then become very vocal on social media because they assume that their opinion carries more weight because they hide behind a Premier League badge or superstar athlete. It’s as if the club or athlete owe all their success due to their “expert” practice. Complete and utter nonsense - again get over yourself.

 

I am a published author - seriously!!!

I know plenty of physios and sport scientists who have published articles in journals and thereafter assume that they are an authority in this field. For example, I know of a physio who considers himself an expert because he works in the Premier League and was part of a group who wrote a clinical piece on return to play decisions – thereafter he announced in his Twitter bio that he was an expert, again absolute poppycock. Furthermore, I read the piece and wasn’t all that overly impressed if I’m honest.

 

Expertism by Association:

There is a perception that the higher the status of the league or the more successful the athlete you work with is, then, the better a physio you are, and in some instances, I would imagine this to be true. However, this type of perception is more akin to “expertism by association” rather than a true measure of how efficacious that practitioner is. For example, a physio who works with Manchester United is assumed to be better than a physio who works for one of the lower league clubs such as Carlisle. Funny that because I know the physio at Carlisle and he is certainly without a shadow of a doubt one of the best in the business. However, this is a very shallow method for judging a person’s capability of how good they are as a physio/sport scientist /S&C. There are so many confounding factors, twists and turns in life, good and bad luck as well as timing which play a role where we all end up in our journey.

 

Learner or charlatan (expert) - Which one are you?

What makes someone an “expert” in their field? The quick answer is nothing. Nobody and I do mean nobody, is an expert in this field. How could they be? Seriously, how would you measure it? In my humble opinion, you have two types of people, those who think of themselves as lifelong learners and those who are delusional enough to believe they are experts in their field…. the charlatans!

 

Anyway, let’s get back to what the academics think constitutes expert practice.

 

A Reflective Practitioner:

This type of person according to Boud et al (1985) is able to reflect with purpose on their experiences, actions, emotions, feelings and responses in order to learn from them with the ultimate aim of challenging their understanding of themselves, their attitudes and behaviours to expose any biases they may have (Patterson & Chapman, 2013). The sequelae of such reflective practice may help improve patient care, bridge the theory-practice gap and fuel further critical thinking to promote ongoing changes in practice (Duffy, 2007).

 

Professional Craft Knowledge:

Benner (1984) argues that nothing trumps professional experience as the gold standard for “expert” practice - not even speaking at a conference or having thousands of followers on Twitter - imagine that?! Although she admits, it is very difficult to define what an expert is because this type of person operates on a deeper level. She believes that the expert clinician utilises evidence-based practice as merely another tool in the toolbox, a bit like k-tape, exercise or manual therapy or NICE guidelines for that matter. Again, I would argue against Benner’s choice of using the term “expert”, and this could be replaced with “learner”. Professional craft knowledge is reserved for those practitioners who are very experienced in their profession, who have seen the good, the bad and the ugly, and again who have reflected on and learned from all their experiences.

 

A novice practitioner, on the other hand, has “propositional knowledge” that is knowledge they have gained from books or courses but lack the real-life practical experience to inform their practice. They rely on and quote heavily, especially on social media platforms “scientific theoretic knowledge” because their personal practice is limited and inflexible. As their exposure to industry-specific scenarios increases (for example in professional football) as does their experiential practical knowledge (professional craft knowledge) and therefore they are able to lean on their propositional knowledge and anecdotal experience to make better decisions for the patient/athlete (Benner, 1984).

 

On the spot: Research action Research practitioner

The other defining aspect of an experienced practitioner is that they are able to reflect-in-practice, that is while the scenario is occurring which is in contrast to the novice practitioner who will be more likely to reflect-on-practice, i.e. reflecting on the event after it has occurred (Schon, 1983). This type of practitioner is able to carry out on the spot: research action research – they can generate a new understanding of the situation and change the situation there and then. They are able to consciously attend to the task in hand. In my humble opinion, the practitioner who is striving for best practice will be one who utilises both reflection in and on practice. The practitioners who view themselves as lifelong students, learners, reflectors, not those who think of themselves as experts just because of who they work for, what they have written or how many followers they have. But what do I know? I’m just a learner!

 

The Intuitive Practitioner:

This type of person uses intuition which is difficult to verbalise and has no rationale process – it’s simply a hunch!!! Again, you need quite a bit of experience to operate at this level. Your decision-making ability becomes fluid and effortless and not so cognitive anymore. Dreyfus & Dreyfus (1986) also refer to an “intuitive grasp” where the practitioner uses pattern recognition to inform their decision making. In essence, the practitioner compares their current experience with their past practice to make the right decision.

 

 

Metacognition:

This occurs when you are able to reflect on your reflection, be critical about your own thoughts. This type of clinician can act as their own supervisor and question whether they are dealing with the situation effectively (Rolfe, 2011).

 

Being a good listener:

My whole aim in life now is to be a better listener, did I really listen to the other person, did I understand their fears, expectations and aspirations. If I have listened well, I can put that person at the centre of the rehab journey and build from there.

 

Conclusion:

Is it correct to assume that someone is an “expert” in the field of sport and exercise medicine just because of who they work for, who they know or what they have written? In my opinion, this criteria defines what a “bureaucratic expert” is and nothing more than that. They hide behind smoke and mirrors, badges and athletes, journals and conferences.

If it's that important to you to be perceived as an “expert” in your field, then stop hiding, develop your own skillset as a practitioner and qualities as a good person. Listen more and stop telling people what to do on Twitter, realise that it is just your opinion that you are offering. Make your job your passion, reflect on your behaviour and become a nicer person. The more experience you have, the more you will realise that there are many occasions where current evidence does not advocate a particular practice. And, it is in these challenging situations of uncertainty – which you will constantly face within professional sport – that you, as a lifelong reflective learner, rather than who you work for, will help most.

 

Reference List:

Benner, P. (1984). From novice to expert. Reading MA: Addison-Wesley.

Boud, D., Keogh, R., & Walker, D (eds) (1985). Reflection: Turning experience into learning. London: Kogan Page.

Duffy, A. (2007). “A concept analysis of reflective practice: determining it’s value to nurses.” British Journal of Nursing, 16(22), 1400-1407.

Dreyfuss, H. & Dreyfuss S. (1986). Mind over machine. Oxford. Blackwell.

Higgs, J & Titchen, A. (2000). “Knowledge & Reasoning. Higgs & Jones (Eds.), Clinical reasoning in the health professions. Oxford: Butterworth Heinemann.

Jones, M. & Rivett, D (2004). Introduction to clinical reasoning. In M. Jones, & D. Rivett (Eds.), Clinical reasoning for manual therapists. London: Butterworth Heinemann.

Moon, J. (2004). “A handbook of reflective and experiential learning, theory & practice”. London: Routledge.

Paterson, C. & Chapman, J. (2013) “Enhancing skills of critical reflection to evidence learning in professional practice. Phys Ther in Sport. 133-138.

Rolfe, G. (2011). “Knowledge and practice. In G. Rolfe, M. Jasper & D. Freshwater (Eds.), Critical reflection in practice. Generating knowledge for care (pp.11-29) Palgrave MacMillan.

Schon, D. (1983). “The reflective practitioner: How professionals think in action. London: Temple Smith.

 

 

 


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The Late Fitness Test podcast | Episode Nine

Wednesday, October 2 2019

 

Getting down and dirty with all things injury-related. This weeks’ Late Fitness Test podcast covers a myriad of talking points… Johnny does his utmost to upset Frank Lampard while Stel pulls no punches as Manchester United’s on, and off-field, problems continue.

First up, we’re off to Stamford Bridge where the Chelsea boss is clearly unhappy following a recurrence of a hamstring injury which will rule Emerson out until after the international break.

 

(🎧 4:30m) The culture of blame

“Emerson is a similar injury to what he had, with a muscle. When you do that it means you’ve come back too soon. That’s not a slight on Emerson; everyone wants to play this game, fair play. Those things shouldn’t happen,” Lampard mused following the defeat to Liverpool.

“There is no blame when it comes to risk.” Practitioners need to delineate the risk of recurrence… to the player, to the manager to help make informed return to training, return to playing decisions… Research would postulate that your likelihood will lessen over time.

“You are not inoculated against the risk of injury…. What I find incredible is that he could give that type of answer, that type of answer might have held some water, let’s say 10-15 years ago, but not now. Everybody shares a responsible when returning players to training and playing.”

Physios reflect in practice, they’ll reflect during the event and use all their experience during that event and will be sympathetic to the fact that this hamstring may recur again. Lampard does not have that experience of returning a player to training and playing. He is reflecting on practice; he is reflecting on his decision after the event. This should not happen. He does not have the experience to reflect in practice.

 

(🎧 21:30m) Fitness, fitness, fitness

Fitness has always remained high on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s agenda since arriving at the club

Ahead of a warm-weather training camp to Dubai in January, Ole said. “We can get fitter, and we have to do that through the training sessions here. But Dubai is a good chance because now is the first time we get a week of work together.”

“Of course, we know our fitness is nowhere near good enough. I’ve said it before, I can’t wait to get a pre-season done,” he said following the 4-0 defeat to Everton in April.

While in pre-season, the United boss insisted “everyone should be as fit as they possibly could be” heading into the opening weekend. “It is not a case of breaking them down, it is not about proving a point; they are not fit enough. We are here to build them up.”

However, United's lethargy and growing number of injuries have called into question the squad, so much so, that the sports science department is said to be perturbed by the number of players breaking down so early in the season given that most of them are non-contact injuries.

“The easiest thing to blame, the easiest thing to change is the fitness of the players. However, you can’t hold onto that excuse 12 weeks later.”

 

(🎧 27:30m) Norwich injury record

The Canaries have suffered 18 reported injuries since the opening weekend, more than any other top-flight side. But how much is down to bad luck? And, how much is of their own doing?

"The first sessions and the first weeks have been good” Head of Sports Science Chris Domogalla told Norwich City TV in July. "I've heard that the guys are not used to double sessions, but they've done a really good job. We've increased the load softly in each session because we knew the background. We've pushed the guys to improve them. That's the way we want them to work."

“Did training have to get harder, or did you have to train smarter? How much reflection is going on in both those camps?”

 

(🎧 36:30m) Recruiting from within

“Sometimes I not sure whether the recruitment process on backroom staff, on players, is as robust as maybe how robust the conditioning of the players has been. So, maybe we’re just looking in the wrong direction here. They are still recruiting within…… I’m calling into question the recruitment process here. You’re at the best club in the world, but going to the best club in the world, have you got the best people giving you the best advice…?”

Meanwhile, Stel does not pull any punches.

“Marcus Rashford is bottler…. Things aren’t going his way, and I know in the past certain players, have refused to play because they feel that they are too injured even though they can. And, for me, this injury may be legitimate, but I just think that it’s convenient that he’s pulled up right about the time people are questioning his form, they’re questioning his ability….. It seems that a lot of players at this club are very quick to hide behind the managers failing, what’s happening off the pitch with Woodward. It’s like a shield, and it’s going to continue until the owners eventually sell up.”

 

(🎧 39:30m) Treating the person

In recent years the conversation has morphed from: “Shall I have an MRI?” On to.. “So, there’s nothing on the MRI? Well what do you think it is then? Stuff that players would’ve played with 10-15 years ago, they probably don’t play with it now.”

“It comes down to the person you’re dealing with. “You’re not treating a hamstring; you’re not treating an ankle, you’re not treating an ACL. You’re treating the person that’s in front of you and what are they bringing to you, and what type of behaviour, and what character, because their character will determine the outcome and the physiology.”

 

(🎧 40:00m) Evidence-based medicine

“You get all these practitioners, and they hide behind evidence-based medicine, you see them all on Twitter. They go and quote a paper on hamstring injuries; they go and quote a paper on ACL’s. This is called acquisitional knowledge. They’ve acquired this through reading, through books, through articles, they’re working in the Premier League and they don’t have the experience to go ‘matching my anecdotal experience over the last 10-12 years with the research I see…..”

 

(🎧 43:00m) Listener Question – Genetics.

“You’ve heard about people talking about the speed gene… There is no such thing as a particular strength gene, or a particular speed gene, or a particular performance gene…. Genes play a part, but the polarising notion that it’s nature – the way you were born – or nurture – your conditioning and training – well that’s archaic, and that’s proven not to be right.”

 

(🎧 46:00m) Andy Carroll comeback!

“Is he able to put back-to-back minutes together? No. Was this an emotional decision by Newcastle United? Absolutely, definitely!”

And on reports by the Telegraph that state the likelihood of Carroll starting a game in the short to medium term is extremely slim with his involvement almost certainly confined to cameo roles as a substitute.

“It’s a very, very, very graded return to play and not one I’ve been involved in that people have been afforded so much time to return. Because usually, a player is given restricted minutes for a couple of games, and then, if their status is high within the squad, then they’re back in.”

 

Have a listen; we would love to hear your thoughts!

 

🍏 Apple https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/the-late-fitness-test-season-2019-2020-episode-9/id633108165?i=1000451290091

 

🎙 Audioboom https://audioboom.com/posts/7379546-the-late-fitness-test-season-2019-2020-episode-9

 

🗣 Spotify https://open.spotify.com/episode/5v4tDd2Qd1JRcXT4PzZOtl

 


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How to pass a football medical...

Monday, September 30 2019

 

Matt Nesbitt pulls back the strapping on what really goes on in a football medical

If you think that the football medical is merely a sideshow of Transfer Deadline Day. A formality to be rattled through in a few minutes, while the player’s agent is getting the last couple of critical contract terms over the line - usually his percentage and the sell-on fee (for the more-than-likely already arranged transfer). You’d be wrong. It’s crucial, often as a get-out-this-deal-free card for the player and/or the club.

John Beresford tells a great – and revealing - story about his proposed move to Liverpool from Portsmouth. Moments after his dream move was derailed by the medical team at Anfield, he passed a medical for Newcastle United – over the phone.

 

An Englishman’s fish is a Frenchman’s poisson

C’mon, you remember John Beresford… He was the diminutive blond left-back that played behind David Ginola for Kevin Keegan’s mid-nineties nearly men.

He was the one blamed for about half of the goals they conceded. Grossly unfair because he spent most of his time being double-teamed by the opposition winger and right-back, while the immaculately coiffured Frenchman in front of him strolled about on the halfway line clicking his fingers above his head.

“Garcon… Garcon. Le ballon, s’il vous plait.”

The story goes that John was on his way to join Graeme Souness’ Liverpool having impressed for Pompey in a cup tie (despite missing the all-important penalty in the shoot-out). But during the medical, an x-ray revealed a problem with his ankle. Apparently, it hadn’t set correctly following a fracture playing for Barnsley – four years and 150-odd games previous.

No-fault of the club, of course. They sent all their injuries to accident and emergency in Barnsley General hospital during that period.

But Liverpool were (and remain) bastions of the highest possible standards. And at the time were only a few seasons past an unmatched period of domestic and European domination. If they’d started taking chances on half-fit full-backs in 1992, it could’ve been decades before they began to challenging for the major prizes once again.

(Yes, I know that actually did turn out to be the case. But it wasn’t due to their medical team playing fast and loose with floating cartilage).

Anyway, the deal was off, and a gutted Beresford was marched off the premises.

 

As one gate slams, another one opens

Enter Kevin Keegan.

With the clang of the Anfield gate slamming behind him still ringing in his ears. John’s phone rings.

*NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR*

I know what you’re thinking.

‘There were no mobile phones in 1992! The credibility of this story has been compromised. ABORT! ABORT!’

I thought the same. But that’s how John tells it, and I’m not calling him a liar – he’s got an MBE now, y’know. Plus, there is no way of checking, and it is key to success of his story and this article.

So how about we say his agent had a car phone. Happy with that…? Great.

AS YOU WERE…

With the clang of the Anfield gate slamming behind him still ringing in his ears. John’s agent’s car phone begins to ring.

John is still disconsolate in the passenger seat. Head bowed. Eyes filled with tears.

The agent pulls his BMW 5 series (probably) to the curb and answers. It’s Kevin Keegan.

 

‘Hello Mr Keegan. Let me hand you over to my client John sat next to me, disconsolate in the passenger seat. Head bowed. Eyes filled with tears.’

‘John, Kevin here. Come and sign for me. I’d love it.’

 

John Beresford MBE spots an emergency parachute when he sees one but is a professional. Immediately ‘fessing up what has just happened in the Anfield treatment room, explaining to KK about the badly set ankle.

He needn’t have worried.

‘Oh, don’t worry about that. We’ve just signed Paul Bracewell – his ankle is f#@ked!’

And that was that.

 

Trust me; I’m a football manager

Later that day, Beresford was ushered through the medical department at Newcastle United with Keegan cajoling and heckling the physios throughout. And the deal was done.

He went on to play 179 games for Toon over six seasons, during the most exciting period in their history. So, this is no criticism of Keegan or Souness. It merely highlights the grey area around the football medical.

(Paul Bracewell also managed over 70 games for Toon. Training once a week and being packed in ice and pumped full of pain-killers the rest of the time).        

Harry Redknapp has spoken openly about using a failed medical as an excuse to put the kybosh on transfers. Usually to make way for a late Peter Crouch or Niko Kranjcar deal.

So don’t make the mistake of thinking that football medicals are black and white. Or that medical teams or a latent injury carries more weight than the people running the club.

Football is a game of opinions. And so is match fitness, my friends.

 

Matt Nesbitt swapped his short, unspectacular but joyous football career for a much longer, successful one as a football tipster.


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The Late Fitness Test podcast | Episode Seven

Monday, September 23 2019

 

On episode seven of the Late Fitness Test podcast - in association with Shoot the Defence – myself, Johnny Wilson (@johnny_wilson5) and Stel Stylianou (@UncleStel) analyse the injury data from the opening weeks’ of the new Premier League season and explore why the number of reported incidences has increased in recent years.

  • We discuss Callum Hudson-Odoi’s impending first-team return (⏱️ 12:00m). The winger underwent surgery in April after rupturing his Achilles at Watford in the Premier League five months ago.

“Generally, they repair pretty well, and then it comes down to how rigorous the rehab is after that. The tendon doesn’t like rest, it’s probably the worst thing you can do, so tendons they respond to load.”

  • Newcastle United defender Florian Lejeune is closing in on a comeback after suffering a second serious knee injury within the space of 12 months. We look at the research carried out by a Scandinavian group led by Hege Grindem in 2016 and why his setback came as no surprise.

The nine-month rule. (⏱️ 16:00m)

“Athletes who return to their level of sport before nine-months are nearly five times more likely to re-injure the knee or suffer an injury to the other knee. And every month that you wait after nine months, your risk of recurrence goes down by 51 per cent each month.”

  • Lejeune made a remarkable return-to-play for the Under-23s after only 140 days but ruptured the ACL in his opposite knee less than five months later.

“I’d be surprised if he didn’t have a recurrence, for a number of reasons……... We are rushing these players back because there’s a huge amount at stake.”

 

Debunking the Miracle Doctor myth (⏱️ 25:00m)

  • Following the news that Manchester United full-back Diogo Dalot spent 10-days in China with Super League side Shanghai SIPG and Head of Medical - Eduardo Santos – we look at what, if anything, is so special about these go-to clinicians.

“All you need is one very high-profile player in the dressing room saying to the guy beside him, ‘You need to go-to X, he’s the Miracle Guy’. And then, two players go there; three players go there, four players go there and all of a sudden you have this reputation of being in the right place at the right time and being known as the Miracle Guy.”

There is absolutely nothing out there that is going to speed up recovery. You must:

  1. Protect from re-injury.
  2. Give it the right environment to grow and heal properly.
  3. Time. There are no miracles. There is no magic pill. You’ve got to do the work.

 

And finally.

The FIFA Technical Report from 2018/19 Champions League tournament. (⏱️ 33:00m)

  • Premier League players have recorded the Top Three fastest speeds in the competition for two years running while the number of sprints overall more than doubled in 2018/19.

Are increases in injury incidence rates indicative of players reaching their ceiling point?

We talk:

  • Recruitment – and how the genotype of a player - has changed over the previous decade as the game continues to evolve.
  • Are we conditioning players with enough speed work to help them tolerate this new game?
  • Responsibility and ownership. 
  • Does football need to become more ruthless at an early age?

“It comes down to a little bit like gymnastics where they weed out the weak very, very early. You either can cope with gymnastics, or you get injured, and if you get injured, you get thrown away. And in a lot of ways, football has to become a bit more ruthless because of the amount of money that’s there…”

 

Have a listen; we would love to hear your thoughts!

 

🍏Apple https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/the-late-fitness-test-season-2019-2020-episode-7/id633108165?i=1000449475694

 

🎙Audioboom https://audioboom.com/posts/7365759-the-late-fitness-test-season-2019-2020-episode-7

 

🗣Spotify https://open.spotify.com/episode/01NNYc6IJLQIKmPZbIR51Q


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The Late Fitness Test podcast | Episode Six

Tuesday, September 10 2019

 

On this weeks’ Late Fitness Test podcast - in association with Shoot the Defence - myself, Johnny Wilson (@johnny_wilson5) and Stel Stylianou (@UncleStel) were joined by former Head of Sports Science at Bury FC – Matt Wood – to discuss the tragic demise of this small northern club.

“100 per cent, I thought right up until the end that we were going to be saved by someone.”

Heart-wrenching stuff from Matt who tells us what it was like during those final weeks and days. He talks us through his time as a volunteer and how he finished as an unpaid head of department. A club left in turmoil, but for Matt, he will always be grateful for the opportunity handed to him by Bury.

 

Aymeric Laporte

  • Johnny outlines the task-based rehabilitation programme the Frenchman will undertake as he targets a return-to-play in early 2020.

“This guy is going to have to learn to walk again, and the knee is going to have to learn to function with part of its shock absorber gone.”

 

The International Break

  • Is the social media circus justified given the high number of players who will withdraw from their respective national teams, but return when the domestic fixtures resume?
  • The Fergie fingerprint. Do big clubs influence high-profile player omissions? We look at Aaron Wan-Bissaka/Paul Pogba and the FIFA guidelines around releasing players for games.

 

Ben Foster

Dietary habits and the ‘Four Pillars of Performance’….

  • Mindset – positive outlook, practice with intensity
  • Type of Exercise – training with precision, periodisation
  • Sleep – more, and better!
  • And diet…… *spoiler* Johnny loses us for a bit when he touches upon metabolic flexibility.

 

And, finally, Stel is full of praise for Watford head coach Javi Gracia, just two days before his sacking!

 

🍏 Apple https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/shoot-the-defence/id633108165?i=1000448736920

🗣️ Spotify https://open.spotify.com/episode/4bKrwoF1zFvgy5egctqr2I

🎙️ Audioboom https://audioboom.com/posts/7360776-the-late-fitness-test-season-2019-2020-episode-6-special-guest-matt-wood


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The Modern Day Footballer

Thursday, September 5 2019

 

Strength Training

In the powder keg arena of Sport Science and it’s mission to improve the athletic prowess of footballers and reduce their risk of injury, this highly political performance pendulum seems to have swung towards an emphasis on training the muscles of the lower limb in an isolated approach to run faster, jump higher and resist injury.

Source social media sport science theorists. That is to say that there is a lot of importance put on gym-based exercises such as nordics, squatting, deadlifting, lunging, calf raises etc. Now, while I am not for one moment arguing against this type of conditioning, as it is also a common theme in my own practice, I do believe that more of a nuance could be placed on a systems approach to improving sport-specific strength. From reading the contrasting and often hotly debated theories on social media, my concern is that we are becoming too granular in the gym with soccer players and that the sports science community are more interested in isolated tissue mechanics; is the muscle eccentrically contracting et cetera, et cetera, rather than what is demanded by the sport.

Let’s get straight into it.

 

What is a footballer?

In effect, he/she is an endurance athlete and therefore needs to be able to cover roughly 10-to-12km of high-speed running and intermittent sprinting over a 90(ish) minute period.

Therefore, maybe more of an emphasis needs to be placed on strengthening and conditioning the cardiovascular and cardiorespiratory systems in the gym or on the pitch rather than developing lower limb strength in isolation to run faster for longer, jump higher and be more resistant to injury - just a thought (I know a provoking thought).

However, let me be clear, I am not saying that we should not strengthen leg muscles, just bias a bit more towards strengthening them at speed or at a threshold heart rate (THR) (maximum number of beats your heart can beat to supply oxygenated blood to the working muscles usually longer than 10 minutes and less than an hour). And again I am not saying that we need to increase the volume of training or time on the training ground, just possibly tweak the type, intensity and speed of exercise that we choose.

For example, we might select short distance, high-intensity sprints with incomplete recovery between sprints at the end of a training session on a Tuesday rather than three sets of Nordics to help inoculate against hamstring injuries. Here, we are incorporating a high heart rate at or above their THR, improving oxygen turnover efficiency, practising the skill of running at speed (also needs to be trained), replicating the demands of the game and improving the hamstrings ability to tolerate repeated eccentric (lengthening of the muscles) explosive efforts: Better still get the player to execute a motor skill at the end of each sprint (shooting crossing dribbling et cetera, and you have “Soccer Specific Strength Training” which is physiologically demanding, fun and engaging - a systems rather than isolated muscle approach. This is just a redirection on the mindset of strength training for soccer players rather than being opposed to it.

I am in fact a huge advocate of strength training but more from the perspective as a multi-joint, multiplanar activity which requires control, movement of many body parts, rotation and the ability (strength) to move/stop/change direction/vary pace in response to an external stimulus (cone/pole/whistle/opponent). And in my own humble opinion, the ability to lift heavy in the gym doesn’t always translate to fewer injuries on the playing field. I have worked with plenty of players in the past who were incredibly strong in the gym but kept getting injured on the training pitch and also vice versa. The controversy of that statement hasn’t gone amiss on me either, and I’m sure I’ll receive some fire on that one, shields up, fire away.

To summarise, including a systems approach planned around the demands of the game in conjunction with a more traditional granular tissue (muscle) mechanics system (which by the way we still don’t know very much about) may improve our ability to positively affect players’ in-season aerobic and anaerobic fitness levels while also reducing their injury risk and engaging them with fun and demanding sessions with the ball.

Johnny Wilson (🐦@johnny_wilson5)


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Why players will [always] choose to play...

Thursday, September 5 2019

 

Mo’ matches, mo’ money, no problem.

 

In the last couple of posts I’ve had a pop at FIFPro’s At The Limit report.

 

It outlines their proposal for reducing the workload of elite footballers. Suggesting mandatory pre and mid-season breaks, caps on the number of matches per season and enforced rest periods between games.

 

Bless.

 

It’s at best naive. At worst, nonsense. Not because it doesn’t make valid points. It does. But it completely overlooks two critical factors: Money. And football’s relentless pursuit of it.

 

And I’m not just talking about the TV companies, governing bodies and boardroom fat cats. All of whom would swallow their collective tongues at the prospect of less product to flog to the masses.

 

(Sorry, that last line should end: ‘…at the prospect of less of the beautiful game to share with the worldwide football family.’ Pesky predictive text.)

 

Players are also guilty.

 

Because fewer matches means less appearance money. Less exposure to bigger clubs, better contracts and more lucrative image rights.

 

  1. every match you miss means one of the perhaps half dozen squad members battling for the same shirt is out there strutting his stuff. And no-one wants that.

 

So if it means overplaying, you’ll do it. If it means playing at 75% fit, you’ll do it. If it means having a pre-match injection to block out the 25% that’s broken, torn or strained, you’ll do it.

 

And if it means lying to your manager… Pfft! What do you think…?!

 

Spoiler alert: there is no such thing as a magic sponge

 

I regularly played with cortisone injections. Not so I wouldn’t miss a Champions League final… or to get me through a World Cup… no, no, no.

 

I did it to collect fifty quid appearance money on a wet, windy Friday night at Rochdale. It doesn’t always have to be a Tuesday night at Stoke, y’know!

 

Okay, we are talking late 80s, early 90s in Division Three and Four – that’s League One and Two for any millennials or iGens* reading this – so the numbers might’ve changed, but I guarantee the attitudes haven’t.

 

*Note: Of course, no actual millennials or iGens will be reading this. They’ll be race-trolling a footballer on Twitterstagram, or doing a knife crime.

 

The difference between a teammate and a mate

 

I didn’t even know what cortisone was. But I did know I wanted my £50 appearance bonus. I also knew I didn’t want some other - quicker, fitter, better – player taking my place. And quite possibly keeping it.

 

So I had to play. And that meant a pre-match jab. Which sounds harmless. Quaint even. Certainly no indicator of the bone-grinding agony to come in your late 40s every time you drive, climb stairs or spend more than four minutes on an aeroplane.

 

But professional football is a cut-throat business. Most people will understand that. What might surprise some is the extent and proximity of the throat-cutting. And how far beyond the 90+3 minutes on the pitch it goes.

 

That, brothers and sisters, is playtime. All you have to worry about during the match is the other team.

 

There is not a player playing who hasn’t been ‘done’ by a team-mate. Typically one who plays in your position. Often on a Friday. Occasionally on the morning of a game.

 

The late (tackle) fitness test

 

In this next bit, the names have been left out to protect the guilty, but the events are actual.

 

The year is the late 1980s. The setting is the English lower divisions. It’s the morning of a non-event match between two non-descript teams. A senior player is giving a fitness test to a first-year professional who’s had a spell out injured.

 

The younger player – who we’ll call… erm… Natt Mesbitt - has missed the last six weeks with a broken foot (now called a metatarsal injury). The senior player – who we’ll call, er… Blive Caker – had been out of the first-team picture for a while and reached that pitiful stage where he is helping out the coaching staff on match days.

 

Anyway, the foot in question feels fine. No discomfort from running, jumping, or ball-striking — all good.

 

Young Natt is thinking that £50 appearance money has got his name all over it. He’ll be out on the town tonight!

 

“How’s it feel?”

 

“Great. 100%.”

 

“Right, let’s do a couple of block tackles.”

 

“No problem.”

 

Couple of gentle 50/50s. Side-foot, stationary ball. Nice and steady. Feels fine.

 

Now a bit firmer. Up the resistance. Rolling ball. But nothing silly – after all, we’re in ankle socks. No strapping or shin pads or anything. Not a twinge. All good.

 

Young Natt’s thinking he might even wear the club blazer out tonight. See if he can get a bit of VIP action in Ritzy's nightclub…

 

“Okay, one more and we’re done…”

 

BANG!

 

High. Late. Studs up. Six weeks out.

 

“…well, you’re gonna get them in the game son…” Said the smirking senior player as he walked towards the dressing rooms.

 

Guess who started the match. And pocketed my £50 appearance money. And guess who stayed in that night.

 

 

Matt Nesbitt swapped his short, unspectacular but joyous football career for a much longer, successful one as a football tipster.


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Late Fitness Test podcast | Episode Five

Tuesday, September 3 2019

 

In Episode Five of the 'Late Fitness Test' podcast, we welcome former Manchester United and Northern Ireland international goalkeeper Roy Carroll to the show. The veteran stopper discusses his time in Greece and how his return to England - the weather and the style of play at Notts County – contributed to an increase in back and groin injuries. He gives us a players’ perspective of the game and an insight into the mental toughness required when working towards a return to training and playing. Roy provides an update on his recovery from reconstructive (ACL) knee surgery and tells us more about his RC 1 Coaching programme for aspiring young goalkeepers. Also, we discuss:

  • Warm-ups - Following on from Pedro’s withdrawal prior to kick-off at Norwich City (GW3) due to a hamstring problem. Why players are injured pre-match. Johnny talks us through GPS data and how increased anxiety levels cause "huge chemical changes in the body” and why some players struggle to manage the emotions of game day.
  • Until the final whistle - Everyone remembers ‘Fergie Time’. Norwich also had a knack of scoring late during their promotion campaign. Is it luck? Conditioning? Or are there other influencing factors which come into play – mental fatigue, switching off and poor decision making — mental capacity and the players' ability to cope with the scenarios in front of you.
  • Are we giving players enough ownership? - Are we asking them enough questions? Are we putting enough out there for them to mentally make a decision? “For me, that’s probably the biggest excuse why they lost on Saturday because we didn’t ask enough questions. These guys are not going to be great decision makers because we haven’t put the problems out there.”
  • Rotation - Carabao Cup - Players can decide on these types of games; it’s not always entirely down to the manager. Blood emerging talent…. Resting players for psychological or physiological reasons – this is not their priority - there are other environmental factors which they are fulfilling.
  • Strategising - Integrating and involving a player returning from a long-term injury. We discuss Winston Reid and his imminent comeback after more than 18 months on the sidelines. 
  • Bournemouth and knee injuries…. Troy Deeney…. and why surgery is not the be-all and end-all…... Danny Welbeck on his return. Johnny’s “delight” at seeing the former Arsenal attacker starting his first game for Watford.

 

We would love to hear your thoughts. Have a listen. 

🍏 https://podcasts.apple.com/gw/podcast/shoot-the-defence/id633108165?mt=2

🗣️ https://open.spotify.com/show/0IhypURW1JiiI7rGU354aV?nd=1

 

 


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The Late Fitness Test podcast. Episode Four.

Wednesday, August 28 2019

Episode Four. The 'Late Fitness Test' podcast in association with Shoot the Defence. Cohosts Ben Dinnery, Johnny Wilson and Stel Stylianou tackle some of the main injury talking points from the last seven days:

  • Leroy Sane and his decision to go against club wishes and have reconstructive knee surgery in Austria. Johnny discusses autonomy of care and explains that the player, regardless of what he may have written in a pre-signing contract or whether it is an existing injury or a recurrence, he has a right to choose where he has that surgery and by whom.  
  • Messi steps up his recovery..... Johnny makes his own sandpit and explains how rotational forces and forces going through the joint dissipate through the sand. Also, why it is such a good medium for training and/or recovery. 
  • Eric Bailly contract talks and some standout stats. His availability rate for the Premier League is around 61 per cent. There have been 20 reported time loss injuries since his arrival at the club which culminates in almost a year on the sidelines. Can United afford to retain a player who will miss two in every five league matches?
  • Naby Keita's ongoing groin problem and the 'dreaded' Watford endurance test.

🎙️ https://open.spotify.com/episode/7BXTFj0o7LzTJDNLyZuJ5x

🍏 https://podcasts.apple.com/gw/podcast/shoot-the-defence/id633108165?mt=2

🗣️ https://audioboom.com/posts/7348439-the-late-fitness-test-season-2019-2020-episode-4


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Seven reasons the football calendar will not be reduced

Tuesday, August 20 2019

 

The topic of players playing too many matches is never far from the surface in this country, without any real consensus. The latest attempt to drag it up onto the bank and into daylight is by FIFPro with their damning ‘At The Limit’ report.

You might not have heard of FIFPro, but they’ve been looking out for players’ since the 1960s. Backing freedom of contract issues, pushing through the Bosman ruling and they currently control the image rights of players (you can check on the loading screen next time you play FIFA 19).

 

FIFPro at the limit of reality

 

Not sure they entirely live up to their own ‘voice of professional footballers’ billing – I was one for 12 years and only found out about them last week – but they are good eggs.

 

Their ‘At The Limit’ report is exhaustive, comes from a good place and makes sound recommendations (check the previous blog post for a breakdown). But that’s the end of the platitudes, people…

 

Because the seven suggestions for ‘What the Football Industry can do to put Player Health and Performance First’ are a nonsense. 

 

Two clumsily matched phrases leap out if that sentence, like a salmon at the far post. ‘Football industry’ and ‘player health’. Because neither has anything to do with the other.

 

Football is like any other industry. It’s a machine. Churning out a product for the paying public.

 

The greatest show on turf

 

Players are conveyer-belted in one end, and matches pumped out the other. Yes, a few limbs might get snagged on the cogs in between but look at the TV revenue!  

 

While football’s stock continues to grow, it’s all about ‘MORE’ not less. And something as trivial as player health is not going to slow down production.

 

Here are FIFPro’s seven recommendations and seven reasons why they won’t work:

 

Lock-In Season Breaks

Minimum breaks of four weeks in the summer and two weeks in the winter would leave just six spare weekends to fit in all domestic cup ties and International matches, including tournaments. So no World Cup, no Euros, no Copa America… unless domestic leagues condense the season by playing more midweek matches. Which brings us onto…

 

Limit Back-to-Back Games

It’s suggested that five days is required between matches for players to perform at their best. Hmm. A couple of things… Firstly, do you really think that TV companies worry about players – given that they are funding their obscene wages – ‘performing at their best’ when they are flogging advertising? Second, do think any club is going to leave a player out of a big match because he is a bit puffed out? And thirdly, do you think any player is going to be honest about being a bit puffed out when there is appearance money up for grabs?  

 

Consider Match Caps

Limiting the number of matches players can play, limits their value to clubs and the wages they can earn; it compromises a manager’s team selection and makes a mockery of form; it will dilute the quality of competition and recreate the three-foreigner Champions League rule. Which was rubbish and everyone hated.

 

Change the Playing Calendar

This recommendation actually supports the idea of more matches. With bigger squads and more player rotation. This will run League One and Two into the ground and further disenfranchise the terraces – neither of which the big-hitting TV networks, or FIFA and UEFA execs will give a monkey’s about, by the way.

 

More Rest for Long-haul Travel

Two words: appearance money. Players will not miss the big matches. Whether it means quitting international football or arranging to be helicoptered off the pitch to the next game the moment the final whistle goes.  

 

Develop an Early Warning System

Say what now? I think FIFPro began to struggle at this point because nothing practical is suggested as to what this system might be. Hang on… I’ve got it! How about a physio. Perhaps a whole medical team to look after players’ fitness. And then maybe a manager to, I dunno, talk to the player to ask him how he is doing…? No…?

 

No Additional Games Until Safeguards are in Place

They were definitely struggling at this point – calling for no more domestic or international fixtures to be added to the calendar until ‘enforceable mechanisms’ to protect players can be put in place. When you start throwing in management-speak like that, you know you’re running on empty.

 

Dear FIFPro,

 

Can I suggest a cap on far-reaching reports on matters you don’t know enough about and haven’t really thought through. And a mandatory rest period between back-to-back reports – to maintain performance levels. 

 

Perhaps an extra 48 hours break when returning from a long, hard schmoozing trip too. All those dinners and gentleman’s clubs can lead to burnout. And finally, no more reports until some enforceable mechanisms can be put in place to protect FIFPro execs.

 

Yours,

Matt Nesbitt.  

 

Matt Nesbitt swapped his short unspectacular career in the English lower divisions for a much more successful one as a football tipster. He now has a proper job.


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The Late Fitness Test podcast. Episode Three.

Monday, August 19 2019

 

Episode Three. Shoot the Defence 'Late Fitness Test' podcast. Ben Dinnery, Johnny Wilson and Stel Stylianou return to discuss a host of injury-related topics. This weeks' highlights include:

  • Kieran Tierney and 'that' club-record vertical jump test and why his results may indicate a return-to-play (RTP) sooner than the club suggests in mid-October. 
  • Bayern Munich could still move for Leroy Sane during the European summer transfer window despite the winger being sidelined for at least six months. Johnny explains why a deal may yet be done.
  • Following on from the FIFpro 'At the Limit' report which came out earlier this month. The footballers union flagged Alisson Becker as one of those players most at risk of suffering a fatigue-related injury having played 72 competitive fixtures and travelled over 80k kilometers in the previous 12 months. And, after playing in every Premier League minute in his first season at Liverpool, the goalkeeper picked up quite a severe-looking muscle injury on the opening day. With supporters fearing the worst, we discuss the nature of the injury and why seeing Alisson in a short-leg walking boot, may not necessarily be a bad thing. 
  • And, finally, Jack Wilshere, and his decision, with West Ham's blessing, to bring in an external person to help maximise his opportunities on the pitch.  

Have a listen, we would love to hear your thoughts!

🎙️ Audioboom https://audioboom.com/posts/7343484-the-late-fitness-test-season-2019-2020-episode-3

🎧 Spotify https://open.spotify.com/episode/5b1iOoPuJJhjjSxFhj8wF6

🍏 Apple https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/shoot-the-defence/id633108165

 


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FIFPro Insist the Football Calendar is harming Elite Footballers

Monday, August 12 2019

 

It only seems five minutes since Liverpool were lifting the Champions League and we’re off and running again. But are footballers becoming overplayed prima donnas?

Yes, I know we’re only a week into the new season, but we’ve already heard complaints about the season being too long.

Jurgen was complaining about having to play too many matches before the Community Shield. One of seven ‘trophies’ in Liverpool’s crosshairs this season. Now down to six.

‘Someone has to look after the players’ Jurgen Klopp, ahead of the Community Shield

And he’s not alone. His views were this week endorsed by FIFPro. No, me neither. But apparently, they are the ‘voice of the world’s professional footballers.’

Anyway, they’ve knocked up a damning report on the plight of the modern elite footballer.

 ‘At The Limit is an exhaustive study based on the workload of 500 elite level players over a 12 month period.

The data revealed that (among other things):

  • Tottenham’s Heung-Min Son played 78 matches and travelled more than 110,000km
  • Liverpool keeper Alisson Becker played 72 games and covered 80,000km, with no midseason break.
  • Almost 75% of Ivan Rakitic’s 68 matches in Barcelona and Croatia’s engine room were played without the five-day break recommended for injury avoidance.
  • And Sadio Mane’s 70 matches for Liverpool and Senegal took him over 100,000km, again without the benefit of a midseason breather.

The upshot being, players, play too much. And don’t rest enough.

 

What the voice of professional football neglects to mention…

The report makes a series of recommendations - to it has to be said, no-one in particular - including:

  • A mandatory four-week break in the summer and two-week break in the winter
  • Limits on the number of times a player can play back-to-back matches inside five days
  • Annual match caps for players

Something the report doesn’t include – despite being the ‘voice of the world’s professional footballers’ – is the views of any footballers.

I’d be intrigued to hear Heung-Min Son’s pleas to be left out of the Champions League Final because he was a bit puffed out…

Or Alisson stalling on his £67 million transfer to Liverpool because the wife had already paid the deposit on their caravan holiday in Morecombe…

And how Ivan Rakitic

is hoodwinked into running out in front of 100,000 adoring fans in Camp Nou’s cathedral of football, just a few short days after a Champions League tie at Wembley or the San Siro.    

There is no appetite for less football

You might think I’m taking the mickey. But FIFPro are giving it away!

Come on. A four-week break every summer? Er, World Cup anybody? No? European Championships ring a bell…?

Restricting back to back matches? Two words: appearance money.

Annual match caps? What’s this - VAR for appearances…?

No midweek break adds up to a full season of injury

One telling stat that came out of the report was that elite teams that DON’T have a mid-season break lose an average of 300-player days more per season to injury than those that do. That’s ten months. A full domestic season.

But football is all about more. More matches, more tournaments, more tickets, more subscriptions.

I’m sure FIFPro have good intentions, as does Jurgen Klopp, when he says that someone has to look after the players. But it won’t be anybody making money from football who takes the job.

Not FIFA, UEFA or the leagues currently selling players’ souls – or at least renting them for TV. Not the clubs. And not the players either.

Money talks. But football money shouts, chants and sings

UEFA cited player burnout when they scrapped meaningless international friendlies. Then replaced it with the meaningless Nations League.

Clubs respond to more matches with bigger squads. And players lap up the bigger contracts.

In a game where money talks as much and as loudly as it does in football, FIFPro’s self-proclaimed ‘voice of the world’s players’ is destined to be drowned out.

Matt Nesbitt swapped his short unspectacular career in the English lower divisions for a much more successful one as a football tipster. He now has a proper job.


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PremierInjuries.com and Physioroom.com have joined forces

Friday, August 9 2019

 

New for the 2019/20 season, the UK’s top two football injury websites have joined forces.  

 

Since its launch in 2000, Physioroom.com has established itself as the world’s leading sports injury, rehab and fitness website. Delivering practical advice, insight and equipment.

 

PremierInjuries.com is the No.1 source of Premier League injury news. Supplying unique data insights to major media outlets including the BBC, Sky Sports, talkSPORT, NBC Sports and ESPN.

 

And becoming essential weekly reading for millions of Fantasy Football players around the world.

 

Football injury specialist Ben Dinnery will continue to provide the latest Premier League news via the unique Injury Table at PremierInjuries.com.

 

Delivering fitness updates on all 20 Premier League teams. Including details of the injury, expected return to play (RTP) and reaction from managers’ latest press conferences.


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View from the BaDMaN Boot Room - GW 38

Saturday, May 11 2019

 

Events this week have been scarcely believable.

First Vinny shins a career-first screamer into the top bin to probably clinch the title for City. Then Liverpool – fresh from witnessing that heart-breaking moment the night before – humble the great Messi and Co.

Then Tottenham bully those poor Ajax boys into submission in bad-Channel-Five-football-film-finale style. 

But for me the most extraordinary development of the week was the name of Rio Ferdinand being put forward for job of Technical Director at Manchester United.

I wouldn’t trust this clown with the kitty on a night out, let alone pulling back the universes most massivest club from the edge of the cliff they are currently shuffling towards.

Thoughts...?

https://youtu.be/aeH0QboozkM

Goalkeeper

Total Pts

GW 37 Pts

Alisson (LIV)

170

2

Defenders

 

 

Robertson (LIV)

207

1

van Dijk (LIV)

202

8

Alexander-Arnold (LIV)

170

10

Laporte (MC)

169

12

Midfielders

 

 

Salah (LIV)

256

7

Hazard (CHE)

237

11

Sterling (MC)

229

3

Mane (LIV)

216

2

Forwards

 

 

Aguero (MC)

195

2

Aubameyang (ARS)

192

8

 

Nothing much to say ahead of Final Day, so we'll leave it until our end of season wrap next week.

Yeah?

Matt Nesbitt


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View from the BaDMaN Boot Room - GW 37

Friday, May 3 2019


That Lionel Messi, eh?

When’s he going to start delivering…?

The little maestro has deservedly dominated the headlines this week after carving out Liverpool’s heart, doing a couple of keep-ups with it. Then smashing it in the top bin.

But he wasn’t the only – or the first – player to rack up his 600th goal this week. That Cristiano fella only went and did it away at Inter Milan.

Monsters. The pair of ‘em.

Goalkeeper

Total Pts

GW 37 Pts

Alisson (LIV)

168

6

Defenders

 

 

Robertson (LIV)

206

14

van Dijk (LIV)

194

6

Alexander-Arnold (LIV)

160

10

Laporte (MC)

157

9

Midfielders

 

 

Salah (LIV)

249

19

Hazard (CHE)

226

2

Sterling (MC)

226

3

Mane (LIV)

214

13

Forwards

 

 

Aguero (MC)

193

9

Aubameyang (ARS)

184

2


No changes and with just a couple to go, we can probably safely say this is it. Or can we…?

On me Ederson...

In goal Liverpool’s Alisson has a 7pt lead over City’s Ederson, which will probably be enough in terms of cleans sheets. So the Brazilian needs one of his route one defence splitters to land at the feet of one of his front men either Monday night or on Final Day.

Robertson and van Dijk are tucked in at one and two. And Alexander-Arnold and Laporte will three and four, but in what order depends on keeping Newcastle and Wolves and Leicester and Brighton at bay. A-A might need the ‘snooker’ of an assist to be safe.

My Mo Fo...

Salah’s late run of – still-not-quite-the-heights-of-last-season-but-still-good - form has made him FPL top dog. And there is a straight fight between Hazard and Sterling for second place. You’d fancy Sterling, with Chelsea likely to wrap Eden in cotton wool in preparation for a glorious farewell in the Europa League Final.

Mane will claim the final Top Four place. Unless Pogba does something worthy of the Real Madrid transfer he wants.

No AA meeting here...

Up top, Aguero looks unassailable – and likes a Final Day goal, I seem to remember. But Aubameyang could yet be reeled in by Wolves’ Jimenez. And 38% of FPL bosses fancy it by the looks. And don’t rule out rat boy Vardy. He loves a goal against the Top Six and is in his best form for a couple of seasons.

Yeah?

Matt Nesbitt


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View from the BaDMaN Boot Room - GW 36

Friday, April 26 2019

 

Getting good now, isn’t it? The Premier League I mean. 

Mostly I’m enjoying the fact that Liverpool could get 97pts and finish runners-up. In which case Klopp will have to go. 

But I happen to think that his job could be saved by Sean Dyche and Burnley. I reckon they will wrestle a draw out of Man City, which will decide the title. 

There. I said it.

Goalkeeper

Total Pts

GW 35 Pts

Alisson (LIV)

162

6

Defenders

 

 

Robertson (LIV)

192

6

van Dijk (LIV)

188

7

Alexander-Arnold (LIV)

150

11

Laporte (MC)

148

15

Midfielders

 

 

Salah (LIV)

230

6

Hazard (CHE)

224

7

Sterling (MC)

223

8

Mane (LIV)

201

3

Forwards

 

 

Aguero (MC)

184

7

Aubameyang (ARS)

182

7

 

Then suddenly, there is a change…

As New York taxi driver Travis Bickle once said. The change he was referring to was in his mental state. He later went on a shooting spree. I, on the other hand, am talking about Fantasy League defenders.

You talkin’ to me…? 

Terrance Trent Alexander-Arnold and Aymeric ‘shut the back’ Laporte have both made a late bolt for the Dream Team finish line. Racking up 26pts between them to boot out the Chelsea trio of Luis, Azpilicueta and Alonso. (I know there were only two places available and that’s three players, but those in the know will be aware they have chopped and changed over the last couple of weeks. So trio it is, right?)

You talkin’ to me…?

But that’s as choppy and changey as it has got this week. Nothing will change in the midfield – Pogba is fifth on the list, a full 26pts behind Mane. And his head seems to already be in Madrid or Barcelona. Makes a change from up his own arse though.

And the double A-cup duo of Aguero and Aubameyang only need a goal or two more to be sharing the Dream Team bra come final day. 

Then who the hell else are you talkin’ to?

Matt Nesbitt


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View from the BaDMaN Boot Room - GW 35

Thursday, April 18 2019

 

This week I’ve watched a couple of Under The Cosh podcasts, ‘starring’ Jon Parkin, Chris Brown and Chris Brown.

If those names are not immediately familiar, allow me…

Parkin was a journeyman centre-forward for mainly northern based clubs, scoring over 200 goals in more than 650 appearances. 

Likewise Chris Brown, but with fewer goals and appearances. He identifies himself from the other Chris Brown involved by calling himself ‘Browny’. The other Chris Brown calls himself a comedian and writer. 

There are three series, each featuring 12 episodes totalling some 30+ hours of listening time. But if that seems like too much of daunting task, I can condense the experience for you…

Jon Parkin: ‘Ah wunt the quickest’ ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. Ah seeeh, ah wunt the quickest ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. I laaark a drink and me grub, thoor ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha but ah wunt the quickest ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha’. 

Saved you a bit of time.

Goalkeeper

Total Pts

GW 34 Pts

Alisson (LIV)

156

7

Defenders

 

 

Robertson (LIV)

186

5

van Dijk (LIV)

181

12

Azpilicueta (CHE)

140

0

Luis (CHE)

140

1

Midfielders

 

 

Salah (LIV)

224

8

Hazard (CHE)

217

2

Sterling (MC)

215

14

Mane (LIV)

198

9

Forwards

 

 

Aguero (MC)

177

2

Aubameyang (ARS)

175

6

 

Nine of the eleven above are nailed on to be in the end of season Dream Team. 

The two wobblers are Chelsea defenders Azpilicueta and Luis. Each could be replaced by team-mate Alonso, who is currently bubbling under on 139pts. That after leading the way for defenders for much of the season. And leading all seasons for a bit of it.

The four in midfield could yet shuffle about a bit, depending on the goal-scoring exploits of Salah, Sterling and Hazard between now and the final day. But there’s an 18pt gap south of Mane – and Pogba is not going to make up that ground.

Likewise, forwards Aguero and Aubameyang have got enough to play for to keep them duking it out for to gun. Jimenez is next, but his progress has been steady rather than spectacular. And Kane is after him. Whose race may already be run. Unless Tottenham make it to the Champions League Final of course.

Happy chocolate baby Jesus rabbit day, or whatever it is.

Matt Nesbitt

P.S. 'Wunt the quickest' Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. That Jon Parkin.


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View from the BaDMaN Boot Room - GW 34

Friday, April 12 2019

 

So, we know how to stop Lionel Messi now…

The great man didn’t fancy it after the right-hander from Chris Smalling on Wednesday night, did he?

To be fair to Smalling, he was arguably the best of an average-to-poor lot in the drab-to-shit United v Barca first leg.

But you get the feeling that Lionel might have plans for him in the second leg.

Eyes down…

 

Goalkeeper

Total Pts

GW 33 Pts

Alisson (LIV)

149

2

Defenders

 

 

Robertson (LIV)

180

1

van Dijk (LIV)

169

2

Azpilicueta (CHE)

140

1

Alonso (CHE)

139

0

Midfielders

 

 

Salah (LIV)

216

6

Hazard (CHE)

215

14

Sterling (MC)

201

0

Mane (LIV)

189

1

Forwards

 

 

Aguero (MC)

175

0

Aubameyang (ARS)

169

1

 

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before…

Nothing much to report, once again. Azpilicueta this… Sterling that… Hazard the other.

Hazard warning. He’s off to Madrid…

In fact, the form of Chelsea’s wizard is the only noteworthy development. It seems he is keen on the proposed Real Madrid move this summer. His 30pts over the last two weekends has put him to within a point of Mo Salah at the top of the FPL pile.

And his two-goal 14pt total v West Ham earned him as many points as the rest of the so-called Dream Team put together.

Hopefully there’ll be a bit more to say next week. If not, I’ll make something up. How’s that?

Matt Nesbitt


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View from the BaDMaN Boot Room - GW 33

Friday, April 5 2019

 

Some amazing numbers coming out of Tottenham this week. They celebrated moving into their new home by posting a world record £113m post-tax profit last season. 

Their annual income climbed from £310m to £380m and match-day income doubled from £19m to over £42m thanks mainly to their Wembley crowds. And they managed to do it all while keeping their wage bill roughly half that of Top Four rivals Man United!

An admirably and truly astonishing achievement.

That’s if Kane, Alli, Erickson, Alderweireld, Tripper and Son don’t all leave in the summer for bigger contracts.

Eyes down… 

Goalkeeper

Total Pts

GW 32 Pts

Alisson (LIV)

147

3

Defenders

 

 

Robertson (LIV)

179

10

van Dijk (LIV)

167

4

Alonso (CHE)

139

5

Azpilicueta (CHE)

139

5

Midfielders

 

 

Salah (LIV)

210

7

Sterling (MC)

       201

3

Hazard (CHE)

201

15

Mane (LIV)

188

5

Forwards

 

 

Aguero (MC)

175

10

Aubameyang (ARS)

168

4

 

Entering the final furlong of the season on Grand National day, it is fair to say that the final places are all but decided. And there’ll be no Devon Loch here (look it up, Millennials. Eyes roll). 

We have had a change though…

He came, he scored, he conquered…

Cesar Azpilicueta’s goal-scoring exploits at Cardiff and a clean sheet at home to Brighton means he elbows his Chelsea team-mate David Luis out of the back four. 

But otherwise it’s as you were. Although we should tip our hats (that means fist-pump, Millennials. Eyes roll) to Palace’s Patrick van Aanholt for clambering up to 8th place in the FPL defensive rankings. The only one of the eight not representing Liverpool, Man City or Chelsea player. A good effort.

Cool Raul steps up…

Likewise, Wolves’ Raul Jimenez has grown in swagger all season. And is only 3pts behind the A-class AA strike force of Aguero and Aubameyang. A+ that man (that’s a very good mark at school, Millenials. Eyes roll). 

Scuttling back into midfield for a second, all matters are settled - with a massive 33pts between the Fab Four* and the rest. Paul Pogba taking the role of Pete Best**.

Notes for Millennials:

*This is a reference to the Beatles***

** Pete Best was the drummer that got replaced by Ringo Starr**** so didn’t make the final line-up.

*** The Beatles were a popular four-piece pop group in the 1960s.

**** Ringo Starr was the drummer. Who went on to achieve worldwide critical acclaim for his portrayal of a fictional steam locomotive.

Yeah yeah yeah, 

Matt Nesbitt


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Concussion

Monday, March 25 2019

 

A heads-up on football head injuries

There’s a famous old football story that has gained its subject, the former Partick Thistle manager John Lambie, more notoriety than his playing or managerial career ever did. It goes like this:

During a Scottish League match his then centre-forward Colin McGlashan suffered a serious clash of heads with a rival. Lambie’s assistant Gerry Collins examined the injured player on the side of the pitch and reported back that McGlashan “didn’t know who he was”.

To which Lambie quipped: “Tell him he’s Pele and get him back on”.

Head injuries are no joke

It’s a funny line. Enjoyed countless times in after-dinner speeches. I’ve heard both Harry Redknapp and Sam Allardyce retell the story (as theirs).

The punchline was chosen as the title of a successful book of football anecdotes. The tale was even retold at Lambie’s funeral in April last year. As an epitaph, of sorts.

And no doubt brought the house down.

But would people be laughing if Colin McGlashan was now suffering from a premature onset of dementia as a result of the injury? Or, more pressingly, the shoddy treatment he received.

‘If you continue to play after you’ve had a concussion and you suffer a secondary knock, that secondary knock can significantly exacerbate the damage to the brain and cause real problems.’

Luke Briggs, Headway Brain Injury Association

I don’t know the state of McGlashan’s health. But he is now 55; four short years younger than Jeff Astle when he died.

A footballing first nobody wanted

The West Bromwich Albion and England legend was the first British footballer to die from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease in people (usually athletes) with a history of head injuries, often concussions.

He won’t be the last.

Football has come a long way from the days of the heavy, wet leather balls that Astle and his peers spent a career heading. We no longer see heads wrapped in blood-soaked bandages, or smelling salts used on players. And the sight of underqualified medical staff prescribing a splash of the ‘magic sponge’ and a blast of Deep-Heat to all injuries - before telling a player to ‘run it off’ – is also thankfully confined to history.

Considerable advances in pitch-side medical provision have been made. And there is a much better understanding of the treatment of head injuries, in particular. Mainly down to the great work of the Astle family and the setting up of the Jeff Astle Trust.

The FA have also worked hard lobbying football’s governing bodies UEFA and FIFA on the subject.

But there are worrying signs that standards have begun to slip.

Questioning the role of football’s rule-makers

Earlier this year (in February 2019) a report by the New York Hospital for Special Surgery found that concussion protocols were “ineffective” in two-thirds of matches in last summer’s World Cup. (1)

It was well reported that Nordin Amrabat ignored medical advice in returning to play for Morocco (versus Portugal) just five days after leaving the pitch concussed (against Iran) in the Group Stages. The Watford winger stated he was “his own doctor”, adding that he “hoped he hadn’t done himself any serious damage”. He also disclosed that he was suffering from memory loss. (2)

This raised understandable concern – and criticism - that FIFA’s protocol wasn’t fit for purpose and needed to become a rule, with concrete sanctions.

An even higher-profile incident happened in last season’s Champions League Final. It emerged afterwards that Liverpool goalkeeper Loris Karius suffered a concussion early in the match. He famously went on to make two howling mistakes, costing his club the game. But continuing malpractice could have (even) more severe consequences.

Are we heading for an on-pitch disaster?

In March this year Arsenal goalkeeper David Ospina – currently on loan at Napoli - collapsed during a match having earlier suffered a head injury before being cleared to carry on. There were no snappy one-liners from medical staff reported in this story and luckily it had a happy ending. Ospina was given the all-clear after spending a night in hospital.

But the chief executive of brain injury charity Headway Peter McCabe wasn’t satisfied. “We are all shocked and appalled at these latest examples of concussion protocols not being followed in football”, he said. Adding ominously, “There’s a real fear that it will take a catastrophic injury to a high-profile player before any real changes in attitudes is forthcoming.”(3)

And that’s no laughing matter.

‘If you suspect that a player may be at risk of concussion, the decision as to whether the player remains on the pitch is now the responsibility of the medical practitioner rather than the player. You must assume that the player does not have the mental faculty to make a reasoned decision.’

Johnny Wilson, former Head of Medical Services at Notts County FC, Scunthorpe and Chesterfield FC.

Don’t suffer in silence…

If you or somebody you know has suffered at the hands of shoddy or incompetent medical treatment playing football. Related to concussion or otherwise, Stewards' Law Firm would like to hear about it.

SISC are an independent body that specialises in providing advice to professional footballers whose careers have been affected by injury. With a view to claiming compensation based on loss of earnings, bonuses or even transfer fees.

 

  1. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-concussions-world-cup/concussions-in-world-cup-soccer-often-missed-or-ignored-idUSKCN1NH26G
  2. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/world-cup/2018/06/20/concussion-row-breaks-world-cup-morocco-field-nordin-amrabat/
  3. https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/european/david-ospina-injury-head-collapse-napoli-brain-charity-shocked-appalled-a8829171.html

 


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View from the BaDMaN Boot Room - GW 31

Saturday, March 16 2019

 

Be honest… Were you actually surprised that Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat-trick to take Juventus through to the Champions League quarters v Atletico Madrid?

It’s what he does. I would’ve been more surprised if he hadn’t.  

Met him once, y’know. Taller and nicer than you think. And smelt lovely. 

Anyway…

Goalkeeper

Total Pts

GW 30 Pts

Alisson (LIV)

143

0

Defenders

 

 

Robertson (LIV)

169

1

van Dijk (LIV)

163

1

Alonso (CHE)

134

0

Luis (CHE)

124

2

Midfielders

 

 

Salah (LIV)

203

5

Sterling (MC)

198

21

Hazard (CHE)

182

10

Mane (LIV)

173

14

Forwards

 

 

Aguero (MC)

165

5

Aubameyang (ARS)

164

7

 

While we’re on the subject of all too predictable outcomes…

There’s no change in the Dream Team. But at least the front six could be bothered to register a few points.

Raheem Sterling’s hat-trick and a brace from Sadio Mane was enough to put the deadly duo top of the class, although rumours are rife that the latter may miss out this weekend due to injury. The Senegalese star stole the show in Munich to help Liverpool progress to the quarter-final stages of the Champions League.

However, Mane appeared to suffer an ankle knock late on, and his absence from training on Friday sent the fantasy community into meltdown. With a restricted five-game slate, the Reds are the standout pick away at Fulham who are shipping goals for fun, and Mane is the go-to having scored 11 times in his last eleven appearances (all competitions). The in-form African is over £3m cheaper than his club team-mate Mohamed Salah and has averaged more than 9pts per game over the previous five fixtures.

There was no mention of a problem as part of Jurgen Klopp’s pre-match media briefing, although having arrived back late from Germany, those involved were given Thursday off and assessments would be carried out after the press conference on Friday afternoon. But, it isn’t unusual for players to be given an additional recovery day, especially during a busy fixture period and hopefully, this will be the case with Mane who could be working on an individualised programme away from the main group. 

And finally, Harry Kane has hit the ground running following his return from an ankle ligament injury. The Tottenham talisman is back in scoring form (three in four) which puts him on the verge of a return up top having closed the gap on a stuttering Aubameyang who has found the net just four times domestically in 2019.

Nothing more to say except to wish me a happy birthday for Saturday.

Cheers.

Matt Nesbitt

 


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View from the BaDMaN Boot Room - GW 30

Friday, March 8 2019

 

A couple of managers getting rough treatment this week…

Nathan Blake and Danny Gabbidon have both administered a size nine into Cardiff manager Neil Warnock this week. Suggesting that players have lost faith in him following three defeats on the spin.

I wonder what losing the opening five matches of the season did for Warnock’s faith in his players. And the nine in 13 in between. And if you think that’s rich…

The talk is that Ole Gunnar Solsljaer is finally going to get the gig at Man United. On half the money that Jose Mourinho was on. Yes, half. 

Eyes down, ladies.

Goalkeeper

Total Pts

GW 29 Pts

Alisson (LIV)

143

8

Defenders

 

 

Robertson (LIV)

168

5

van Dijk (LIV)

162

8

Alonso (CHE)

134

0

Luis (CHE)

122

0

Midfielders

 

 

Salah (LIV)

198

3

Sterling (MC)

177

3

Hazard (CHE)

172

6

Mane (LIV)

159

3

Forwards

 

 

Aguero (MC)

160

2

Aubameyang (ARS)

157

-1

 

Lookey, lookey. Same, same. Well, not quite. But very similar…

Hero two zero…

Chelsea defenders Alonso and Luis don’t even have to score to keep their places in the back four. Although zip wasn’t the lowest score last weekend…

Van Dijk was top man with 8pts. Doing his chances of landing the PFA Player of the Year award no harm at all.

Pog no longer the Mane man…

Pogba has missed all the fun this week. Suspended from the Champions League miracle in midweek and pushed out of our selection by Mane. He’s looked like Norman Wisdom (look him up, eyes roll…) in the last few I’ve watched, but you can’t argue with six goals in seven, I s’pose. 

An AA meeting up top…

Up top it’s an A+ for Aguero, taking top spot after eight in six. And an A minus for Aubameyang, who managed to register in the negative in the north London derby last weekend. Cor blimey.

The Watch List: I got five on it

If you haven’t got, or can’t get, or don’t fancy any of the above – this lot are handy alternatives. 

GK: Ederson (MC) – this ugly bleeder is back in the picture. 
DEF: Alexander-Arnold (LIV) – creeping up on the Chelsea pair.
MID: Pogba (MU) – will be back in the thick of it at Arsenal.
FOR: Rashford (MU) – Has come of age in the last few months. Bless.
FOR: Kane (TOT) – The man in midweek. And most likely this weekend.  

That’s how it looks from here.

Matt Nesbitt


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View from the BaDMaN Boot Room - GW 27

Thursday, February 21 2019

 

Declan Rice was born and grew up in Kingston upon Thames. In England. So he must’ve made the call to play for the Republic of Ireland – where Gran and Grampy Rice are from, to be sure – at a stage when the thought of playing for England was punching a bit.

So what next? If he continues to develop beyond the very good player he has become to perhaps outstanding. Does he go searching in his family genealogy for some French, German or Brazilian heritage…?

It’s not right, is it? And you have to feel for the Republic. Although I hear Shamima Begum is looking for a country…

Goalkeeper

Total Pts

GW 26 Pts

Alisson (LIV)

118

6

Defenders

 

 

Robertson (LIV)

142

9

van Dijk (LIV)

127

6

Alonso (CHE)

125

-1

Luis (CHE)

117

-1

Midfielders

 

 

Salah (LIV)

189

8

Sterling (MC)

173

18

Hazard (CHE)

165

2

Pogba (MC)

143

16

Forwards

 

 

Aubameyang (ARS)

150

0

Aguero (MC)

149

17

 

Two new faces and a defensive tweak to tell you about…

Red hot and blue

Same four faces at the back, although Chelsea’s two are flushed with crimson after the indignity of a -1 score thanks to their 0-6 arse-raping at the rough hands of Man City.
That means van Dijk slips past Alonso, playing second fiddle to his club-mate Robertson. Luis JUST keeps his place, but Man City’s Laporte is at the door. Eh? Eh? ‘Laporte’ at ‘the door’... Do you like that?

In Pog we trust

Staying on a Gallic tip, the big Man United man has finally entered the building. Pogba’s two-goal 16pt showing at Fulham was enough to lope into the picture, after steadily motoring up the rankings. He’s averaged 10pts per match since Jose left. 3pt before.

Elsewhere, Sterling’s value rose after the dismantling of Chelsea. He’s now No.2 overall behind Salah.

AA meeting up top

Aguero’s hat-trick in said match got him the gig alongside Arsenal’s Aubameyang – who didn’t bother to score but stays top gun. Just. But with Kane due back anytime there is a decision to be made by FPL bosses.

The Watch List: I got five on it.

If you haven’t got, or can’t get, or don’t fancy any of the above – this lot are handy alternatives.

GK: Etheridge (CAR) – Watford then Everton. Wouldn’t dissuade you.
DEF: Doherty (WOL) – Injury doubt but worth persisting with.
MID: Son (TOT) – Now in as many teams as Hazard.
FOR: Rashford (MU) – Lukaku is his bitch now.
FOR: Jimenez (WOL) – Classy lone wolf.

That’s how it looks from here.

Matt Nesbitt

 


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View from the BaDMaN Boot Room - GW 26

Friday, February 8 2019

 

No surprise that Man United centre-back Phil Jones signed a new contract this week. Except perhaps that it was with Man United…

No doubt he arrived a little late for his meeting and clattered into the back of the club secretary, throwing his hands into the air and looking pleadingly to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

He has signed until 2023, with the option of another year. I’d suggest 1999.

Oops, there it is.

Goalkeeper

Total Pts

GW 25 Pts

Alisson (LIV)

112

2

Defenders

 

 

Robertson (LIV)

133

2

Alonso (CHE)

126

6

van Dijk (LIV)

121

2

Luis (CHE)

118

13

Midfielders

 

 

Salah (LIV)

181

2

Hazard (CHE)

163

15

Sterling (MC)

155

1

Mane (LIV)

132

8

Forwards

 

 

Aubameyang (ARS)

150

2

Aguero (MC)

132

2

 

Just two changes to tell you about this week, pop-pickers. One in midfield and one up top…

Re rewind…

The crowd says ‘No, select… tion changes?’ No, doesn’t work. Oh well.

The usual suspects fill the line up again. The only movement of note comes in the alternative back four (that is, five to eight). Laporte (MC), Doherty (WOL), Azpilicueta (CHE) and Pereira (LEI) all strengthened their cases. But not quite enough.

Red letter day…

Just a single digit change in our midfield four. Sane (MC) slips out and Mane (LIV) steps up, thanks to three in his last three. Salah and Hazard light (never gets old) the way. Only 20% of the FPL universe remain uninterested by the deadly duo. 

A late Serg…

After a languid spell – including injury – Aguero (MC) has darted into the Top Two, following his hat-trick v Arsenal. With Kane (TOT) still crocked and top gun Aubameyang (ARS) a slight doubt, the squat one might be ready for a surge-io.

In other news, lone wolf hhhhimenez (WOL) looks more like the subject of frenzied transfer speculation at the end of the season with every match.  

The Watch List: A bench of five.

If you haven’t got, or can’t get, or don’t fancy any of the above – this lot are handy alternatives. 

GK: Foster (WAT) – is my pick this weekend. Crouch or no Crouch. 
DEF: Doherty (WOL) – a frustrating brace in the wrong competition in midweek. Eyes roll.
DEF: Laporte (MC) – has even added goals to his game. Well, one. 
FOR: Rashford (MU) – is it me, or has he suddenly all grown up?  
FOR: Jimenez (WOL) – wonder what the Mexican restaurants are like in the Black Country.  

That’s how it looks from here.

Matt Nesbitt


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View from the BaDMaN Boot Room - GW 25

Friday, February 1 2019

 

Remember when Transfer Deadline Day was exciting…?

Harry Redknapp being interviewed in the front seat of his Vauxhall Cavalier, on his way to the airport with a heavily tranquilised Benjani in the boot and a cheque for £10 million in his top pocket…

Peter Odemwingie tooting his horn long into the night outside the locked QPR player’s car park gates… 

Man United swooping to snatch Tottenham’s best player at five to eleven, every year…

Purple dildos in Sky reporter’s ears…

Now what do we get? Peter Crouch going to Burnley. Jeeez, can’t wait for that podcast.

Eyes down…

Goalkeeper

Total Pts

GW 24 Pts

Alisson (LIV)

110

2

Defenders

 

 

Robertson (LIV)

131

2

Alonso (CHE)

120

0

van Dijk (LIV)

119

2

Luis (CHE)

105

0

Midfielders

 

 

Salah (LIV)

179

2

Hazard (CHE)

148

2

Sterling (MC)

144

1

Sane (MC)

129

2

Forwards

 

 

Aubameyang (ARS)

148

12

Kane (TOT)

132

0

 

I said last time that GW 23 may have already given us as many as nine of the FPL Dream Team X1. But it seems I was selling it short.

For the first time this season, there are no changes – and today’s team includes two sets of fixtures. 

Not vintage Red…

Not the best couple of weeks for Liverpool’s back five – Palace matched the total number of goals fished out of Alisson’s Anfield net all season last weekend. And one was enough to poop on the party in midweek. 

But Robertson and van Dijk keep their places alongside Chelsea’s Alonso and Luis, who have endured an even worse week. Neither managed a point – like Chelsea in his last two on the road – and shipping six goals makes you wonder if their problems are confined to the opposite end. They remain the only four defenders in the 100pt club though.

An easy day’s night…

In Midfield a measly 7pts shared between the four was enough to keep them fab. Salah (LIV) and Hazard (CHE) are the Paul and John, Sterling and Sane (MC) the George and Ringo. 

Liverpool’s Mane (Yoko) out-pointed all of them on Wednesday night but just misses out.

Whoa black betty, Aubameyang!

While cats Kane (TOT) and Wilson (BOU) have been away, Arsenal’s top… erm… mouse Aubameyang has been left to play. His way into a 16pt lead at the top of the Forwards pile. In the process he has avoided a Hazard and is now more valuable than Sterling in the overall list. So is now second only to Salah.

Jimenez (WOL) was the week’s big climber, drawing level on points with Aguero (MC) but available at less than half the price. 

The Watch List: A bench of fives.

If you haven’t got, or can’t get, or don’t fancy any of the above – this lot are handy alternatives. 

GK: Patricio (WOL) – Everton, Newcastle, Bournemouth, Huddersfield & Cardiff. Just saying.
DEF: Doherty (WOL) – See above.
MID: Fraser (BOU) – I’m not dropping him now. £6.1m folks. £6.1m!
MID: Mane (MU) – Keeps scoring, so can’t be overlooked.
FOR: Jimenez (WOL) – See three above.  

Yeah?

Matt Nesbitt


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Keeping the Wolves from the physio's door

Saturday, January 26 2019

 

Injuries had a “significant influence” on team performance in professional football an 11-year UEFA Champions League study concluded back in 2012. The main finding was a correlation between low season injury rates and increased performance domestically.

Wolverhampton Wanderers had been tipped for a top half finish in the Premier League following an impressive 2017/18 Championship campaign. A season which saw Nuno Espírito Santo benefit from a squad largely unaffected by injury.

"We do a full screen on all the players when they come back from pre-season," Head of Medical Phil Hayward explained during a behind-the-scenes tour undertaken by 5 Live Sport in 2018. "We'll get a clear picture of how each player moves, what happens to each of their joints, and according to that we'll have a clearer idea of areas which may be exposed to certain injuries. We'll then put some programmes in place to help prevent those injuries."

And a quick look at the injury table tells you everything you need to know about how the squad is faring currently. Wolves boast a clean bill of health and haven’t reported any fresh absences for over six weeks – Diogo Jota (hamstring) in December being the last.

They have suffered only 4 significant injuries (9+ days) this term, the fewest of any top-flight side and almost a third of the next best. To give some perspective - Manchester United have eight-times as many reported problems (32) although they are involved in European competition which has resulted in five additional competitive games.

Increased exposure to game play = higher risk of injury incidence.

A valid point, until you consider that United suffer on average 1 injury for every game played compared to that of Wolves which is around 1 in every 607 minutes.

Of those four injuries, one was muscular – hamstring – and another occurred whilst on international duty – Jonny MCL knee. Having lost 76 days in total to injury, Wolves not only suffer less, but those sidelined return to play quicker on average (19 days) - almost a week faster than their league counterparts (25.7 days).

In recognition of their success during 2017/18, Wolverhampton Wanderers were awarded the ‘Medicine and Performance Team Award’ by the Football Medicine and Performance Association. An accolade which could be bestowed upon them once again come May.


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Opinion: What happened to Hector Bellerin....

Monday, January 21 2019

 

Hector Bellerin suffered what is thought to be a serious knee injury during Arsenal’s Premier League encounter with Chelsea on Saturday. A setback which came only a week after his return to play from a calf strain that he suffered in mid-December to the same leg.

Initial thoughts from leaders within Sports Medicine have speculated that he may have torn his anterior cruciate ligament.

By examining the mechanism of his injury from video analysis, there is a clear shift of the tibia (shin bone) in a backwards direction. This type of movement is usually more indicative of a PCL injury, rather than an ACL, given that the posterior cruciate is the main restraining ligament which prevents excessive movement of the tibia in a backwards direction.

 

 

However, what if….

We assume that the femur (thigh bone) has moved forwards at the same time as the shin bone moved backwards, that would indicate that Bellerin has in fact damaged his ACL and will almost certainly need reconstructive surgery which is likely to mean around 9 months on the sidelines.

Why did it happen?

There are of course a range of risk factors which will have played a role in this non-contact injury, but for the purposes of this blog will stick to some of the more generally recognised risk factors.

Fatigue

Bellerin is a modern-day attacking wing back and carries out a lot of explosive sprints and lung bursting high-intensity runs up and down the pitch repeatedly over a period of 90 minutes – no mean feat at all -you try it!!!! This type of high-intensity exercise can predispose the player to early onset of fatigue. Furthermore, if we examine the sports medicine literature, there are a number of influential papers on this matter which suggest that fatigue is a major risk factor for injury and therefore, given the demands of playing this position on the pitch and the fact that he has just returned from an injury, it could certainly have played a role, especially given it occurred in the latter stages of the game.

Previous Injury

This then brings us on the second risk factor for future injury – that is previous injury. Previous injury is a well-known and accepted risk factor for increasing the risk of injury. Bellerin suffered a calf injury to the same leg on the 16th of December and had just returned to play - against West Ham (GW22) – in a brief 21-minute run out. It has been well-documented in leading research papers in this field that the first 4 weeks of a RTP carries significant risk for a recurrence of injury, not just from the initial problem but from any injury in general.

Graded Return to Play

Therefore, the question could be asked, was it too much of a jump to go from playing 21 minutes to starting a Premier League game in just seven days. If Bellerin was still on a restricted minutes plan – i.e. only allowed to play for 45 minutes against Chelsea, then 60 minutes for the next game, and 75 for the following and then a full 90 minutes on his fourth week following a return to play, this would certainly have mitigated the risk of injury from the two aforementioned risk factors: Fatigue and Previous Injury.

Incomplete Rehab

Bellerin suffered his calf injury in December and returned to play against West Ham 26 days later. If we break down this time period it would be reasonable to suggest that he did not have enough time to A) recover from the calf injury itself. B) regain his pre-injury strength, aerobic and anaerobic fitness levels.

For example, let’s assume that the first 5 days following the injury were spent convalescing from the injury: protecting the injured area, relative rest to promote optimum healing, ice to help reduce pain levels, compression and elevation to reduce excess inflammation to the area and gentle pain free movement to encourage normal mechanics of the lower limb, the player is now only left with three weeks before he enters the fray against West Ham.

In this 21-day period, it would be reasonable to suggest that he had 3 to 4 rest days to optimise any gains in strength and/fitness levels - which then leave him only 16 or 17 days to return to full fitness levels to tolerate the brutal demands of the Premier League.

Now let’s, complicate things even a little more. It is normal practice for a player to be expected to take part in a full week of squad training before bringing declared fit for selection for competitive games. Therefore, his return to train date was probably on the Monday before the WEST HAM game, which now means that he would only have spent 11 days building up his strength, speed and fitness levels.

During this 11-day period; 4 to 5 days would have been spent progressing from running in the pool, to the AlterG (Anti-Gravity Treadmill), to a soft surface and then onto grass. His running pace would have progressed from a slow steady jog to all out sprinting possibly over a 6-day period, if all went well. Then for the remaining few days, he would have had to complete some repeated short sprints similar to match pace, some maximal jumping and kicking before being declared fit to return to squad training on the Monday prior to West Ham. Fine margins and an all too tight timeframe - certainly not enough time to regain strength and fitness levels comparable to pre-injury levels.

Therefore, given all of this, he probably wasn’t afforded the time needed to complete a full recovery from his calf injury – but this is normal in professional sport and is generally accepted by all those who work in elite a professional sport as an industry hazard.

Risk Management

The player, coaching staff, manager and sports medicine team will all have inputted into whether or not they felt it was the right decision for the player to return to train and play so early following his calf injury. At the time these domain experts made the best decision they could with the available information they had at hand, which will of course include the wishes of the player. They will have used - GPS data, strength profile tests and aerobic/anaerobic tests to gauge his progress. However, all these tests have limited utility in isolation and in reality, maybe the player just needed a bit more time to make a full return to play with unrestricted minutes following injury – a lesson for all of us, I think. No matter how robust you think your battery of testing is or how eager the player is to return to play, the better decision would have been to be more cautious in his return to full play strategy.

So, in summary, I can imagine that the Arsenal sports medicine and coaching staff are reflecting on this latest injury and hypothesising what risk factors may have played a role in this injury and what they could do to mitigate a similar injury in the future: injury sport related growth for everyone.


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View from the BaDMaN Boot Room - GW 23

Friday, January 18 2019

 

I read today that Aaron Ramsey has signed a £300k-a-week pre-contract deal with Juve, so will leave Arsenal in the summer. For fuck all. 

Precisely the same fee they negotiated for Alexis Sanchez. 

Well, at least they are losing their reputation for being a ‘selling’ club. 

Eyes down, ladies.

Goalkeeper

Total Pts

GW 22 Pts

Alisson (LIV)

107

6

Defenders

 

 

Robertson (LIV)

124

9

Alonso (CHE)

119

2

van Dijk (LIV)

113

7

Luis (CHE)

105

8

Midfielders

 

 

Salah (LIV)

162

11

Hazard (CHE)

144

5

Sterling (MC)

133

6

Sane (MC)

115

8

Forwards

 

 

Aubameyang (ARS)

134

2

Kane (TOT)

132

2

 

Hmm. Here we are in GW 23 and it looks like we might be looking at nine of the FPL Dream Team X1 already in situ.  

Take it as Red…

Liverpool’s No 1 (actually No 13) Alisson is going nowhere. He’s parried challenges from the best that Man City and Chelsea have got to offer – and your best alternative is actually Cardiff’s Etheridge as it stands. He’ll save you £1.3m each week – and could be worth an investment this week (away to Newcastle).

There’s only Wan-Bissaka…

A slight shuffle in the defensive four, but the Liverpool and Chelsea pairings look away and clear. Doherty (WOL), Digne (EV) and Trippier (TOT) are still decent investments – at least as far as 23%, 15.8% and 18.3% of the FPL universe are concerned. But just don’t get the clean sheets to back up their assist appeal. Oh and there’s been a 33% swell for the £4.5m Wan-Bissaka (CP). He’s a bargain and might just get a big move this month. Possibly. Maybe.   

You’re in Sane! 

Sane (MC) has clambered over Fraser (BOU) this week, but there’s only one big performance between those two, Mane (LIV), Anderson (WH) and even Pogba (MU) if you’re buying the ‘United are back’ hoopla.

But the big three Salah (LIV), Hazard (CHE) and Sterling (MC) look to have their spots in the locker room nailed down.

A Rash you won’t mind getting…

Now then… there could be a bit of headway at the sharp end. No change yet, but it’s a-coming. Kane (TOT) is crocked for probably ten matches, so choose your replacements wisely. Wilson (BOU) and Firmino (LIV) are next on the list, but Aguero (MC) will outscore both on the run-in. £9.3m Lacazette (ARS) will save you a bit, £6.4m Jimenez (WOL) will save you a lot. But the mob has already spoken – with born-again £7.5m Rashford (MU) now accounting for 32.2% of the vote. 

The Watch List: I got five on it.

If you haven’t got, or can’t get, or don’t fancy any of the above – this lot are handy alternatives. 

GK: Etheridge (CAR) – this week (Newcastle) yes, next week (Arsenal) no.
DEF: Doherty (WOL) – has a nice little run of games until Chelsea on March 9th.
MID: Fraser (BOU) – don’t let this lad drop out of sight. Bargainous.
FOR: Rashford (MU) – could still make a big push for Young Player of the Year. 
FOR: Aguero (MC) – due a streak. It’ll happen.  

That’s how it looks from here.

Matt Nesbitt

 


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View from the BaDMaN Boot Room - GW 22

Friday, January 11 2019

 

More developments in Wayne Hennessey’s ‘Nazi salute’ story…

The Palace keeper insisted that the picture below captured him ‘waving and shouting’ at the photographer to hurry, with his hand placed over his mouth to make the sound carry.

Two independent sources have since come forward to endorse his explanation. Mr Basil Fawlty, a Torquay hotelier who experienced a similar misunderstanding while hosting a group of international travellers in the 1970s.  

And an anonymous former public servant, who accidentally caused a stir in Nuremburg in 1933 while trying to attract the attention of his girlfriend Eva.

Nasty business.

Goalkeeper

Total Pts

GW 21 Pts

Alisson (LIV)

101

8

Defenders

 

 

Alonso (CHE)

117

6

Robertson (LIV)

115

5

van Dijk (LIV)

106

1

Luis (CHE)

97

6

Midfielders

 

 

Salah (LIV)

151

2

Hazard (CHE)

139

3

Sterling (MC)

127

5

Fraser (BOU)

109

12

Forwards

 

 

Aubameyang (ARS)

132

9

Kane (TOT)

130

12

 

Despite taking a couple of week’s break, the glut of Christmas matches only prompted two changes in the XI.

A settled back four…

Two clean sheets and an assist over Christmas for Luis (CHE) helped him nudge his way into the back four, just ahead of team mate Rudiger and Pereira (LEI). This relegated Doherty (WOL) to the standby list – which won’t do you any harm this weekend (Wolves are away at Man City).  

Mo Salah, no problems…

No change in the engine room, other than Hazard (CHE) slipping past Sterling due to three goals in five matches (to Raheem’s one). Bargain of the season Fraser (BOU) kept his place in the starting line-up thanks to a five-start 12pt goal and assist performance last time out (v Watford). But he will be feeling the hot breath of Sane (MC) on the back of his neck.

Salah (LIV) stays out in front, racking up a hat-trick of goals and assist in the four festive fixtures. 

All about North London up top…

Arsenal’s Aubameyang remains top gun despite Tottenham and England talisman Kane finally living up to his billing, firing in five goals in his last four. Oh, and tickling in a couple of assist too. 

Firmino (LIV) has also joined the 100 Club, thanks largely to the treble he caused against Arsenal. But don’t write off the injury-blighted Aguero (MC) and Wilson (BOU) – the latter could even be due for a PL upgrade if transfer stories are to be believed. 

The Watch List: A bench of fives

If you haven’t got, or can’t get, or don’t fancy any of the above – this lot are handy alternatives. 

GK: Etheridge (CAR) – aw c’mon, now. Let’s hear it for the number two No 1 in FPL.
DEF: Rudiger (CHE) – is racking up the sheets at the Bridge.
DEF: Pereira (LEI) – 30pts in four matches (including City and Chelsea) deserves a fist pump.
MID: Sane (MC) – can get among the goals and assists v Wolves, Huddersfield & Newcastle.
FOR: Firmino (LIV) – has a nice little trip to Brighton this weekend.

And that, my friends, is that.

Matt Nesbitt

 

P.S. I know what you're thinking... 'Who does he think he is, putting his name in a fancy box...'. Well, you're wrong. I don't know why it's happened. It just has. I've tried deleting it and cutting and pasting again, but it's still there. Just ignore it. 

 


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Ben Dinnery

Ben Dinnery

@BenDinnery

Ben is football’s leading injury specialist. The ‘go-to’ guru for big hitters like Sky Sports, ESPN and NBC Sports when they need data. Or the BBC, talkSPORT and the broadsheets when a quote is required. His unique insight has helped provide a better understanding of what is really happening in the treatment rooms.


Johnny Wilson

Johnny Wilson

@johnny_wilson5

Johnny is a respected physiotherapist and sports scientist, specialising in football injuries and rehab. Johnny has headed up the medical departments at Chesterfield, Scunthorpe and Notts County. Overseeing everything from player-specific training loads to pre-signing medicals. He has a proven record working with elite athletes in Private Practice and is regularly called upon throughout Europe to deliver presentations on the latest rehab innovations.


Matt Nesbitt

Matt Nesbitt On TipTV

@MattNesbitt16

Matt's short, unremarkable football career was ended by his own bad driving. His long, distinguished career as a football tipster was ended by his own good advice. Because bookmakers don’t like a winner. First, they closed his accounts. Then his members’ accounts. Then his tipping service. And now they employ him as a consultant. Funny old game.


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