Mikel Arteta says he has “big worries” about the hectic schedule faced by top level players following a spate of serious injuries in the last two weeks.
The Spaniard is still coming to terms with the “big blow” of losing new signing Jurrien Timber to an ACL injury and he’s concerned more players will end up in the treatment room as matches across domestic and international competitions stack up over the next three years.
Facing the media ahead of Monday’s trip to Crystal Palace, Arteta was asked about injuries to Kevin De Bruyne, out for months with a hamstring problem, and Tyrone Mings, who has also suffered ACL damage.
He responded with further examples, “There was also [Aston Villa’s Emi] Buendia, it happened to [Real Madrid’s Thibaut] Courtois and [Eder] Militao as well.
“There is something there. You can say there have been games in the past and there have been tours as well, but the games, plus the tours, plus the World Cup in December, plus this, plus this, plus internationals – it’s a lot.
“It’s too much for the players. It’s incredibly demanding; when you see the next 36 months of the calendar for those players, it’s just better not to look at it, because it’s incredible what they are going to have to be doing.
“We need to look after them, but as a club, when do you look after them? To prioritise other competitions, and then we are the ones who look after them.
“So we really need to be sitting down, but it’s already too late, at least for the next 36 months. I don’t know who needs to raise a voice here, but there are worries – big worries on that.”
A cursory look at the calendar highlights why managers are right to be concerned. In addition to a busy domestic schedule, there are a host of international tournaments on the horizon.
In mid-January, the Asian Cup and African Cup of Nations start in Qatar and Ivory Coast respectively. Then, next summer, the 48th Copa America takes place in the USA at the same time as the European Championships in Germany.
After that, the Champions League expands in format, as does the FIFA Club World Cup. There are also Nations League fixtures, more international qualifiers and, as Arteta mentioned, further club tours to far-flung destinations.
Something has to give and supporters don’t want it to be the knees of their favourite players.