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Friday, 31 January 2014

The Domino Effect of Swansea Injuries

With 3 points against Fulham and the return of several players from injury, things are suddenly a lot rosier. It was less than a week ago that Swansea were top of the Phsyioroom Injury table with 8 first team players out, most of which would arguably be included in Swansea's strongest line-up.

Much has been made of the demands of the Europa League and the impact of extra games and travel on Swansea's league position, it's purely speculation and maybe a bit biased but I'd argue that our level would be closer to that of Southampton without the extra games (Swansea have played 10 Europa League games but 2 fewer matches in the League Cup compared to Southampton).

As at end of Jan 2014, Swansea have already played 36 competitive matches (23 League, 10 Europa League, 2 FA Cup and 1 League Cup) with late Nov until early Jan being particularly busy with the absence of any international breaks and 2 games a week for 5 of the 6 weeks.
Swansea Minutes Played per week - All Competitions
The heavier than normal schedule combined with a couple of key injuries resulted in a domino effect of a shrinking pool of players to pick from as those left we required to play when ideally they would have been rested resulting in Leon Britton being the only fit midfielder of the 4 main squad members with Shelvey/Canas and De Guzman being injured at the same time.

The chain arguably starts with Bony having a succession of injuries early on in the season ranging from Ankle/Foot (Aug 25th) to Rib (Sep 15th) injuries combined with a lack of a full pre-season and then suffering a hamstring injury in a Europa League game on Nov 28th.
Bony - Minutes played per week.  
After a stop-start beginning to the season, Bony is now starting to play on a regular basis and is in great form, but his absence in the early months of the season arguably placed extra pressure on Michu.
In has time with Swansea, due to his importance to the team Michu has very rarely been substituted and has played despite not being fully fit this season having problems in both ankles.  Playing time above excludes his 57 min for Spain in mid October.
With injuries at various points to Bony and Michu, this placed extra pressure on the midfield, where some games you would only need 2 of the 4 central midfielders if both Bony and Michu starting, with one or both being injured there would be more games where 3 would be required (with Pozuelo also contributing to the attacking midfield role at times).

The reasoning that some games you'd need 2 and others 3 of the central midfielders was why Ki was loaned out to Sunderland as unless there was a run on injuries he'd get very little game time (I know there are other conspiracy theories around his relationship with Laudrup but apart from the issue of helping a potential relegation rival, Ki is better of this season at Sunderland).

The gradual build up of injuries meant that instead of a regular rotation that happened earlier on in the season, Shelvey and Canas in particular were called on even more during the Nov/Dec period which may well have had an impact on their fitness.
Shelvey has possibly been Swansea's player of the season so far but a heavy schedule in recent weeks had arguably knackered him out to some extent
As with Shelvey, Canas has gone from playing equivalent of around 1 game per week to regularly playing 2 games a week
As well as the problems up front and in midfield, injuries to Dyer, Lamah and Pablo meant that this area was also stretched.

Pablo has gained a reputation this season as being 'made of glass' but last season was an almost ever-present. This season maybe he's been pushed backed too quickly only to relapse.
Playing 2 matches in a week might not seem the greatest hardship in the world, but going from nothing to multiple games may be too much of a rush for some players
If players were parts of a machine instead of human then it would make sense to have had Ki around all season to be used in an emergency but in reality an unhappy player can disrupt the squad not to mention do nothing for their potential resale value if they do look to move on.

Over the season so far Chico has played by far the most minutes (Williams was often rested in Europa League games partly due to a niggling ankle injury but also to give Amat experience).
Chico has played 2745 minutes this season, 489 minutes more than Ashley Williams in 2nd.
Pozuelo has featured in the most games this season (34 of the 36) although only 19 of those have been starts.
Pozuelo's been regularly involved, if not as heavily as some but played an important role in keeping things going during late Nov/early Dec
Any patterns of injury will be a matter of training, match volume and luck (no matter how fit or how sensible your playing schedule, impact injuries can just be split second collisions that cause long term injury), it's easy to look back when there's been a run of injuries and say that x or y caused them but it's a fine line between a well oiled machine running at optimum levels and having to end up playing a defender in midfield so small decisions can end up having far larger repercussions.