For some teams the fixtures are now starting to stack up, just look at Man City and their attempts to juggle four competitions, albeit somewhat unsuccessfully with their exit from the FA Cup at the hands of a resurgent Chelsea. They did however triumph in the Champions League and of course took their first silverware of the season by coming out on top in penalties against Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool.
With the season finale getting ever closer it is now or never for some teams. At the top Leicester are still well placed in being two points clear but Tottenham are close behind and their recent form has given fans real hope of taking home the Premier League trophy for the first time, having last won the old First Division in the 1960/61 season. Arsenal and Man City still remain in contention but will have their work cut out in the final 11 games to make up lost ground.
At the bottom of the table the story remains largely the same. Aston Villa remain rock bottom and a massive eight points adrift of seventeenth place, so not looking good. Sunderland have shown glimpses of what they are capable of but without consistency they will be destined to play next season in the Championship and break Sam Allardyce’s record of never having been relegated. They sit just one point behind Newcastle and Norwich who are three points behind Swansea in sixteenth.
There are gaps opening at the bottom half of the table which will be putting even more pressure on those in danger of making the dreaded drop but as it stands a win can still make all the difference, but that is easier said than done.
Who is not letting injuries get in their way?
Injuries are a common excuse used by many managers that without their best players on the pitch they struggle for that magic spark, just listen to Ronaldo. Sometimes injuries simply test the depth of the squad and if the second string players are able to step up to the mark, just look at how Marcus Rashford has stepped up to the plate and delivered for United.
United will be honest in that this season has been a disaster in terms of Manchester United standards and something which never would have happened in the Alex Ferguson era, but perhaps Van Gaal has done a pretty good job considering the injury front. He did say a few weeks ago that they had been unlucky and maybe he is right. They currently sit second in the injury league table with 13 players out of action, second only to Newcastle and their 15 casualties but well ahead of third place Liverpool who only have 7 players out.
In fact, United are the best performing injured team. Their closest rival is Arsenal who are sixth in the injury table and third in the league, but only have 6 players out of action. So whilst Van Gaal has endured a difficult season he has done well when so many of his squad are in the treatment room, especially when your main striker arrives at the game sporting a knee brace.
Do injuries really make a difference to some teams?
In some cases it doesn’t matter if you have a full strength squad or not as they’re still going to struggle. Sunderland and Norwich sit at the bottom and second bottom of the injury table respectively and their Premier league positions are very similar so if it’s not a lack of players that’s the issue it must be a lack of quality? For many teams they await the return of their talisman, someone who can inspire them to victory, but when you have no one to turn to it can be a very frustrating end to the season when the inevitable just becomes ever more real.
On the other hand Newcastle are well ahead at the top of the injury table with 15 players out of action, so they have a small excuse for being in the relegation zone. If we look at the individual injuries eight of these players are scheduled to return to action early this month which could change their fortunes in order to avoid another drop from the top flight, or at least remove one excuse from the list.
Knee injuries and thigh injuries
Both knee injuries and thigh injuries top the table every month, accounting for 53% of all absenteeism in the league. To put this into context the next highest on the list are foot and ankle injuries which takes just 13% of the vote.
Last month saw another high profile addition to the injury league table with Kurt Zouma picking up a horrific ACL injury and adding to the 8 players already out of action with similar conditions. We saw in pictures how bad Zouma’s injury was and this was an extreme case, though when surgery is required a player can expect to be out of action for about 9 months whilst they recover and work on strengthening the joint once again.
ACL damage is the most common knee ligament injury in the Premier League at the moment, with MCL injuries second with five cases currently.
Out of the 28 thigh injuries currently side lining players 23 of these are down to hamstring complaints. They can vary in severity, with three different grades in a minor stretch to a complete rupture. A quick look at the return dates of those affected and you will notice that the vast majority are looking to return to action this month providing there are no complications, great news for Newcastle who have 3 players sidelined with the same injury.
Longest injury layoff
A quick look down the injury stats and the longest return date listed is for Tyrone Mings of Bournemouth who is currently out of action until September 2016. He was unlucky enough to suffer a combined ACL and MCL rupture which requires a major amount of rehabilitation in order to get back to the standard of the Premier League, especially given half of his knee ligaments required replacing.
Surprise surprise our other long term casualties of the game all have ACL injuries, with Zouma out until early August and a further four players out until June and July and effectively ending their seasons and any hopes they may have had in reaching the European championships in France this summer.