As Liverpool get ready for a season without Virgil van Dijk, how do the worst Arsenal injuries compare to that suffered by the defender?
There’s an injury crisis seemingly every season, and at least one player goes from three weeks out to three months or longer. Even if the situation has improved in recent seasons, it’s one that Arsenal still can’t manage to shake.
Given the media coverage of Virgil van Dijk’s injury, it’s worth reflecting on some of the worst injuries Arsenal players have suffered, and remembering that as hard as it can be, there’s always a way back into top level football.
Worst Arsenal injuries
It wasn’t until November 2017 that we discovered the true extent of Cazorla’s injury. “He [the doctor] saw that I had a tremendous infection, that I had damaged part of the calcaneus bone and it had eaten the Achilles tendon,” Cazorla told Marca. “There was eight centimetres of it missing.”
An Achilles injury picked up against Ludogorets in October 2016 was initially meant to keep the Spaniard out for three weeks. Surgery ended up being required, but he was still expected to return during that season. He didn’t.
Weeks turned into months, and news of his struggles gradually emerged. Gangrene, nine surgeries, skin grafts, and the very real threat that he might never play again, Cazorla had an exceptionally difficult couple of years.
It’s really not fair that such a happy and wonderful player has to suffer in this way.
You could write a whole book on Diaby’s injuries alone.
The French midfielder endured a long and difficult career at Arsenal due to recurring injuries, and they can all be traced back to one afternoon against Sunderland in 2006.
Defender Dan Smith made what the media described as a “horrendous” tackle that left Diaby, then only 19, with a severe ankle fracture.
He underwent three operations and was warned he might never play again before making his comeback in 2007.
From that point, it was a story of setbacks and recoveries. Diaby kept getting injured and hit with atrocious tackles that went unpunished, but he kept trying to come back.
He refused to let his career be ended by injuries for longer than most, and hung on to his Arsenal career until 2015, when he was released by the club.
He eventually gave up the fight when he announced his retirement at the start of 2019 but Diaby had been without a club since July 2017 when he was released by Marseille. He made six appearances for them in two years, amassing just 335 minutes of football after leaving Arsenal.
The last anyone heard, Dan Smith was working in a call centre.
As a football fan, there were few things more horrifying than seeing a player’s ankle hang off at an odd angle, held on by only his sock.
The players felt the same way when they saw Eduardo’s leg broken by Martin Taylor of Birmingham City in 2008. You knew it was bad when the commentators on the day said they wouldn’t show any replays of the incident because the injury was too gruesome.
The Croatian was in hot form and firing Arsenal to their first title challenge in years, but his season, and Arsenal’s, was brought to an abrupt end.
Eduardo was out for a whole year with a broken left fibula and an open dislocation of his left ankle.
He fought his way back to fitness, and returned in February 2009 against Cardiff. His Arsenal career was able to continue, if only briefly, but he was never able to reach the heights he was so clearly destined for before he met Martin Taylor.
Now 37, Eduardo has been without a club since 1 January 2019.
Seeing an Arsenal player having his leg shattered once was bad enough. Twice was unbelievable but three times?
Aaron Ramsey was in a rich vein of form and proving to be one of the best young players in the country until a collision with Stoke’s Ryan Shawcross took a year and a half off his career and forever changed his relationship with Arsenal fans.
He suffered a double fracture in his right leg, in what was another injury too graphic for TV to replay.
Ramsey returned towards the end of the 2010/11 season, but took at least a year to get back to the level he was playing at.
He went on to become a regular in the Arsenal team and scored in two FA Cup finals, but he was never able to maintain the levels of fitness required.
The difference between Ramsey’s break and those suffered by Eduardo and Diaby, which had far more of an impact on their careers, was that Aaron’s, thankfully, didn’t involve any joint damage. It was still enough, however, to have a lasting impact on his career.
In January 2008, Rosicky picked up what he would later describe as a “rare” tendon injury.
The Czech thought his career was over as the injury kept him out for the remainder of the season and the entirety of 2008/09.
He did return for the start of the 2009 season, but struggled with several minor injuries.
Unfortunately, while Rosicky did go on to become a valuable player at the club, the end of his Arsenal career was hit by more serious injuries.
A 10-year-stint at the club came to an end in 2016, having made just a single appearance that season.