Abou Diaby, Jack Wilshere and the Case for and Against Injured Players

H Andel@Gol Iath @gol_iathAnalyst IIIMay 10, 2012

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MARCH 12:  Abou Diaby of Arsenal passes the ball during the FA Cup sponsored by E.On Sixth Round match between Manchester United and Arsenal at Old Trafford on March 12, 2011 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Clive Mason/Getty Images

The cut-throat atmosphere that is the sporting world mitigates against absolutist ideas when it comes to the fate of players severely injured enough to be sidelined for a season or more.

For most, I suspect a season-long absence for a player due to an injury is tolerable, especially if the player is good enough. The problem arises, however, when a player becomes injury-prone, such that he leans precariously on the precipice of liability. Such is the case of the unlucky Abou Diaby.

In the case of clean injuries such as leg breaks (pardon the contradiction in terms), the situation ostensibly is clear enough.

Few fans, managers or such, would think it a proper maneuver to get rid of  players like David Villa or Bacary Sagna, simply because they have been unfortunate enough to have their legs broken and get sidelined for an entire season.

Even in situations where a relapse happens, as in the case of Jack Wilshere, it would seem that many fans and managers would choose the path of empathy. Loyalty seems to be a cherished commodity in the footballing world, as we find exemplified in the case of Villa, Wilshere and Eric Abidal.

Beyond empathy, though, is the reality of contractual agreement, which surely must be a strong mitigating factor in situations such as the one being examined here. I would think that contractual agreement would include clauses that cover contingencies such as injuries.

Others, I'd suspect, would anticipate and discourage breach of contract that could arise in these situations.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 04:  Jack Wilshere of England reacts during the UEFA EURO 2012 group G qualifying match between England and Switzerland at Wembley Stadium on June 4, 2011 in London, England.  (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
David Cannon/Getty Images

The reality of injury is built into the physical nature of sports, much like the reality of death is in war.

It is the reason clubs have medical facilities, and Arsenal's—to take an example—is the best in England, which is why it is surprising that niggling injuries that would seem preventable continue to blight the Arsenal team.

The question that interests me here, though, isn't empirical but ethical and practical as it were. Given the fact that financial obligation remains when a player is injured, how long is it practical for a club to continue supporting an injured player?

Isn't it better for the club to cut its losses and move on to a more viable and productive option?

It is surely practical to say that indeed the club could think of moving on in the case of a player who can't get fit.

However, if the concept of loyalty is admitted into the discussion, and since in one sense a club can be construed as a family, then just as healthy families are loyal to their members, the same should be true of clubs—even in spite of contractual clauses that obligate the parties in this scenario.

What complicates this is that the concept of loyalty as far as many players are concerned is mostly antiquated. But although the understanding that players are mostly mercenary has been part and parcel of professionalism in sports, the idea of loyalty hasn't been completely missing either.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 05:  Medical staff attend to Bacary Sagna of Arsenal as he lies injured on the pitch during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Norwich City at the Emirates Stadium on May 5, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Bryn
Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

Over the ages, there have been players who have adopted their clubs for life, remaining loyal to them like other supporters of the clubs are. Think of players like Ryan Gibbs, Paul Scholes, Frank Lampard, Tony Adams, Martin Keown, Steve Bould, Peter Schmeichel and most recently Thierry Henry.

Loyalty to players in distress due to recurring injury has yielded dividend recently at Arsenal in the cases of Robin van Persie and Thomas Rosicky. These are players whom Arsenal could have gotten rid of on pragmatic grounds.

A discouraging argument toward this could yet be advanced if, after eight years of loyalty to him, Robin van Persie refuses to extend his contract and move on at a point where he's in position to repay the club for its loyalty.

Using the pragmatic argument, one could say it doesn't make sense to give up on Abou Diaby now having stood by him this long.

It is clear from the player's comments that he recognizes the tremendous trust Wenger has in him (via ESPN). One might not be wrong then to think that if or when Diaby becomes fully fit, he may remain Arsenal's for life.

If the Rosicky and the Van Persie examples are anything to go by, Arsenal may yet reap the benefit of their loyalty to Diaby.

And there's yet another positive in this.

When other players observe this dynamic at work, it may be a source of encouragement to them to know that the club or the manager will not just throw them to the dogs in the event of a serious injury.

The existence of that chance to come back can't hurt in the situation of players like Jack Wilshere and now Bacary Sagna, who have to undergo a prolong period of frustrating physical therapy to solve a troubling injury problem.


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