As the new Premier League season draws ever closer and pre-season begins, players up and down the country are working hard to make sure that they’re in prime condition for the first game of the season.
For top players, a Premier League season can be as gruelling as it is rewarding. These days a season is more than just the 38 league games that they compete in, with a lot of clubs under pressure to perform well in both the League Cup and FA Cup, along with any European competitions that they may also be involved in.
As the season draws to a close players are allowed a few weeks of their own time before they must report for pre-season duty, unless of course they have been away playing for their country in an International competition. By the time some players take off their boots for a well-earned rest, they will have notched up over 60 games in one season.
Of course, a higher number of games equals a greater degree of success, but with such a huge demand on players to perform at their peak on such a regular basis, it is no surprise to see an increase in the occurrence of injuries.
For all players, in any league, the time and effort they put in during the few weeks before the season can shape the way in which their entire campaign plays out, so the absolute last thing that any player wants or needs is an injury that could hamper their preparation.
For some, the first game of the Premier League season will come too soon, and below are some of the key players that are currently spending more time in the treatment room than they would have liked.
Danny Welbeck - Arsenal
The England striker hasn’t had the easiest of times since his move to Arsenal from Manchester United, and missing pre-season through injury will be an unwelcome familiarity, having been injured this time last year.
Worryingly, both of his season-stalling injuries have been with his knee, and Arsenal fans were hoping that it would play out differently for Welbeck this time, giving that he was out until February 14th 2016 with his first injury.
Unfortunately, it appears that the road to recovery will once again be a long one for the young striker. After originally having his Euro 2016 hopes crushed by the initial injury diagnosis, things turned from bad to worse as it was discovered that the injury was worse than first believed, and that he would be out until, bizarrely, February next year.
Jan Vertonghen - Tottenham
Much to the dismay of Tottenham fans, Vertonghen suffered an ankle injury whilst on International duty with Belgium at Euro 2016.
After an impressive season at White Hart Lane, in which Spurs were involved in one of the most memorable title races of all time, Vertonghen joined up with the Belgian squad in France to take part in the European Championships.
He went on to play in their first four games of the tournament, but then disaster struck, and he ruptured two angle ligaments. It was perhaps no surprise to some that in Belgium’s first game following his injury, they lost comfortably to Wales and their previously sturdy defence fell to pieces.
As Vertonghen is expected to be out for between six to eight weeks it’s unlikely that he’ll be back in time for the start of the new Premier League season. This will be a huge worry to everyone involved at Tottenham, who looked particularly lightweight in defence last season during the nine games that Vertonghen missed through injury.
Vincent Kompany - Manchester City
During the opening few minutes of Manchester City’s Champions League semi-final tie against Real Madrid in May, City fans witnessed a familiar, disappointing, sight as Vincent Kompany was taken off injured.
The injury, for which he required surgery, meant that Kompany was unable to represent his country, Belgium, at Euro 2016. Unfortunately for him, it also means that he’ll miss all of Manchester City’s pre-season preparations under new boss Pep Guardiola, with rough estimates suggesting that he’ll be out until at least September.
Despite being a defensive rock for City since he moved to the Etihad, injuries plagued him through the entirety of the last campaign, so it is likely that even once he has battled back to fitness that the real fight will be working his way back into the team.
Aaron Ramsey - Arsenal
As we mentioned earlier, for key players at top clubs one of the main causes of injury comes from playing an excessive number of games. And it would seem that the young Arsenal midfielder is feeling the effects of a long, drawn out Premier League title battle, followed swiftly by Wales’ impressive run in the European Championships.
Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger, recognises how important it is to protect players from burning out, having once stated that he prefers to give players a rest when they need it rather than play them regardless and lose them to a needless injury.
Ramsey himself has been quoted as confirming that he’d like some extra time to rest, and that it’s possible that he won’t return until shortly after the season has begun.
If Wenger does allow Ramsey some extra time off, he may have to offer the same to some of his other key players, as Mesut Ozil, Olivier Giroud and Laurent Koscielny. All featured heavily during the European Championships, with the latter two players reaching the final.
Ibrahim Affelay - Stoke
There was quite a stir when Stoke pulled off the signing of Ibrahim Affelay back in the summer of 2015.
The winger had just been released from his contract at Barcelona, and many within the game expected him to move to a club that could at least offer him Champions League football, but Affelay instead opted to show the world that he was capable of turning up on a cold wet Tuesday night in Stoke.
It would be fair to say that he didn’t quite set the world alight in his first season at the Brittania, but he remained a key player for Stoke over the campaign and regularly showed glimpses of the quality that he no doubt possesses.
Unfortunately for him, and Stoke, Affelay sustained cruciate ligament damage during a training session in April, and he was ruled out for around eight months.
The injury itself was similar to the one he suffered while at Barcelona, as the Dutchman spent seven months on the side-lines with anterior cruciate ligament damage in his left knee, also sustained whilst training.
With Affelay not expected to be back until sometime in January, Stoke must plan for the coming season without him.
Mamadou Sakho - Liverpool
In addition to being unable to play for the last few weeks of last season due to a 30-day suspension imposed on him when he tested positive for a ‘fat burner’, Sakho has also been suffering from a long-standing Achilles problem.
While suspended, Sakho used his time out of the game to receive treatment on his Achilles issue, but that has resulted in him being unable to train for at least the next three to four weeks, meaning that he will be absent during Liverpool’s pre-season preparations.
That absence will almost certainly mean that Liverpool’s season opener against Arsenal will come too soon for Sakho, although fans at Anfield will hope that he returns sooner rather than later to ease the club's defensive problems, now that Martin Skrtel has left.