Erik ten Hag caused a stir talking about Arsenal’s squad this week, claiming the Gunners always have everyone available.
Erik Ten Hag’s Controversial Arsenal Squad Claim
Speaking ahead of Manchester United’s second-leg match against Real Betis this week, Erik ten Hag claimed his side have been unlucky with availability issues compared to Arsenal.
“I think up until now we only had one game where we had a squad that was totally available,” ten Hag said. “We had only one game where I said ‘okay, now I can pick my team’.
“It was against Manchester City at home. And it was the only time in this season. Every other time, in every game it was one player suspended, or a player is injured, or illness.
“I see Arsenal, that they almost have all the time their squad it’s total, it’s available.”
Debunking the myth of Arsenal’sfully available squad
For a start, this is simply factually incorrect. The number of games that Arsenal have had their total squad available this season is zero. It hasn’t happened one time.
At the start of the season, the likes of Emile Smith Rowe, Thomas Partey, Oleksandr Zinchenko, and Reiss Nelson all struggled with injury problems.
By the time Arsenal got all of them back, Gabriel Jesus was out, then Leandro Trossard and Eddie Nketiah joined him. Just last week, the Gunners were missing all three of them and Martin Odegaard and Kieran Tierney for the trip to Lisbon.
Arsenal are probably the closest they’ve been to their full squad right now, but the Gunners are still missing Nketiah and Mohamed Elneny.
Even if ten Hag just meant the starting lineup, Arsenal have only had their full “first-choice” side available for seven of 27 Premier League games.
That’s before we even talk about the fact that someone like last season’s top scorer – Emile Smith Rowe – may have been part of that first-choice side if not for his injury problems.
He’s not been able to be a first-choice player because he’s been injured, and therefore he doesn’t get counted among the injuries to first-choice players. It’s a circular argument.
Casemiro’s suspensions: A case study in Player Management
Ten Hag also has to accept that a lot of Manchester United’s recent availability issues have been of their own making.
Casemiro has been the big one, missing the Arsenal match through a yellow-card suspension, then missing three games through a red-card suspension, and now set to miss four more through another red-card suspension.
So, a key United player is missing eight matches, but ten Hag and Casemiro can only blame themselves.
No one forced the manager to leave Casemiro on for the full 90 against Crystal Palace, knowing he was one yellow card away from suspension. Manchester United were in the lead for almost 40 minutes before the eventual booking.
The consequences of inadequate rotation and rest policies
Ten Hag opted not to make a change to protect one of his key players for a big game, so he lost one of his key players for that big game.
Now, ten Hag tells the media he’s going to play Casemiro and Bruno Fernandes against Real Betis on Thursday night, even though both are one booking away from suspensions again.
🟨 Bruno Fernandes
Erik ten Hag says he will be playing the duo this evening against Real Betis with both being one yellow card away from a 1-match suspension despite being 4-1 up already. #UEL pic.twitter.com/EMBHyK9PwV
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) March 16, 2023
If either of them get booked and Manchester United draw Arsenal in the next round, you can be sure ten Hag will be complaining about the availability issue he and his players have created.
When you pick the same team in every competition, choosing never to rotate and rest players, ignoring suspension red flags, you reap what you sow. Leave Arsenal out of it.