It’s been an eventful but ultimately disappointing first season at Arsenal for Petr Čech, who blames the club’s perceived underachievement on a poor injury record.
While Premier League rivals Tottenham Hotspur and eventual champions Leicester City have led the way, both clubs enjoyed the benefits of a clean bill of health for the majority if the campaign.
The same can’t be said of the Gunners.
“It was a very strange season in a way,” Čech said to Arsenal Player ahead of the final game of the season this weekend.
“If you look at the number of injuries we had, it is not a big number compared to previous years or compared to other clubs. It’s not a big difference but unfortunately for us, every time we’ve had an injury, it’s been long-term.”
Midfielder Jack Wilshere has only just returned to the Arsenal side after suffering an injury last August and fellow England international Danny Welbeck didn’t feature until February.
Arsenal fans also haven’t seen Santi Cazorla play for the first team since November and even the seemingly indestructible Alexis Sánchez endured months on the sidelines with a hamstring issue.
“We had a great squad at the start of the season. Danny was coming back, Jack was coming back, and it was a very strong group,” insisted Čech, who joined Arsenal last summer from Chelsea.
“Unfortunately Jack got injured right before the start of the campaign, Danny had the same problem, Tomas had the same problem, and these were all long-term injuries. Santi and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain became long-term injuries too.”
It eventually cost Arsenal, with the squad becoming thin. In turn, too many players had to play too regularly and either lost form or fitness, or in some cases both, along the way.
Opportunities have come about for players like Alex Iwobi and Joel Campbell but there’s no doubt Arsène Wenger would’ve preferred to use them when he considered them ready, rather than having his hand forced.
“If you have so many important players out with long-term injuries, it does give a chance to everybody else, but it can hurt you at certain times,” Čech added. “If you have seven games in 21 days and your opponent has had six days off to prepare, you don’t have the advantage of rotating players.
“I thought we did so well most of the time to be able to cope with that, but unfortunately, in the end, we lacked a bit of energy in February and March when we dropped points. This is where the difference was made.”