Well, it makes a nice headline, but don’t get too excited about it.
This is one score line that we would much rather be on the other side of – and it goes a long way to explaining the relative fortunes of the two North London clubs this year.
It’s the score in long term injuries to important players. Tottenham have suffered three such blows this season so far. Arsenal have suffered nine.
The three Tiny Totts affected are Gallas, Dawson and Sandro*.
The mighty horde of Arsenal’s non-walking wounded comprises Wilshire, Vermaelen, Diaby, Santos, Gibbs, Jenkinson, Sagna, Mertesacker and Djourou.
Bear in mind that by ‘long term injury’ I do not mean three weeks out for a hamstring, or missing a few games with some knock or other. A long term injury is one that keeps a player out of action for a month or more. Sadly, in our case, it’s usually more.
Let’s examine the impact on the two clubs by looking at their five most important players.
I’m sure many of you will want to quibble with my selections for each club’s five crucial individuals, which is fine, but I’m writing this so it’s my opinion you’re getting. Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments. I have not included goalkeepers.
Arsenal’s Top Five: Van Persie, Wilshere, Vermaelen, Sagna, Arteta.
The Spudders’ Top Five: Bale, Adebayor, Modric, Van der Vaart, Dawson.
Added together, the total number of EPL appearances for Arsenal’s five is 67. For the Spuds’ top five it’s 85. That’s a significant difference.
If you hone it down even more, to the three most influential players on each team, the tally is: Spuds (Bale, Modric, Adebayor): 60 appearances; Arsenal (Van Persie, Wilshire, Sagna): 32.
In others words, the shabby shower from Riot Central have been able to field their very best players twice as often as we have.
If the statistics had been reversed (and Bale had been out for the entire season so far while little Jack had played every game) I suspect the league table would be looking very different and the Spuds would be outside the top four.
They are obviously a much better outfit this year than they have been for a long time. They have always had he ability to play good football at times, but this season they have finally added some consistency, but partly this is down to the exceptional good luck they have had with long term injuries to their best players.
Many of us hoped that the injury curse that has dogged us for years would finally ease up in the coming weeks, with the return of some fullbacks and even the possibility of a Wilshire reappearance on the horizon.
But the freak injury to Mertesacker on a pitch that looked as if it had just hosted the Horse of the Year Show soon disabused us of any optimism.
The BFG had slowly (particularly slowly on the turn) established himself as a key element of our defence – as his absence away in the San Siro helped demonstrate. For my money he is an automatic starter with one of Koscielny and Vermaelen alongside him, but now we probably won’t seem him in an Arsenal shirt until next season.
The injuries have all come in different ways so it doesn’t seem as if any blame can be laid at the feet of the club’s medical staff.
In any case, ever since the club invited journalists and bloggers to view its new medical facilities (in a move with more than a hint of “come to North Korea and see our happy smiling famers” about it) the sting seems to have been drawn from that particular issue. A rare example of a PR initiative by the club actually achieving its desired effect.
But the loss of so many key players for months at a time (including the loss of an entire speciality – full backs – for weeks and weeks) has clearly had a big impact on our ability to get a consistent run of form going.
There is an argument that our reinforcements are not up to it, but not many clubs have someone of the quality of Wilshire sitting in the stiffs, or third choice full backs who can come in and do a job at the highest level.
For me it is one of the biggest factors in the way we have functioned this season and I can’t blame anyone except that evil old hag, Lady Luck.
The club may have made a mess of its summer transfer business, and there is a very strong case for saying we could have done more in January, especially to ease the full back crisis, but no club could have suffered the extent of injuries that we have and still have achieved consistently good results.
* Apologies if I have missed any – I had limited research time. But I believe the overall point is valid. Certainly when you focus on the very best players for each club it is unarguable.