Arteta concerned about packed football calendar after glut of early season ACL injuries

Mikel Arteta

LONDON (AP) — Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta is concerned about the welfare of players in the packed soccer calendar after a glut of high-profile knee injuries in the opening week of the European season.

One of Arsenal’s big offseason signings, Jurrien Timber, is set to be sidelined for most of his first year in English soccer after damaging the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee on his competitive debut on Saturday against Nottingham Forest in the Premier League.

Elsewhere in the league, Aston Villa playmaker Emu Buendia is expected to miss most of the season with a significant knee problem — reportedly an ACL injury — sustained in training ahead of the first round.

In Spain, Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and center back Éder Militão sustained ACL injuries over the past week.

With Villa center back Tyrone Mings (knee) and Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne (hamstring) also picking up injuries in the first round of league games that will keep them out long term, Arteta said on Thursday it was not a coincidence and there were “big worries” about the year-round modern-day soccer schedule.

Last season, for example, a World Cup was placed in the middle of most European seasons.

“In the past you can say, ‘Yes there have been games, there have been tours as well,’ but with games, tours, the World Cup in December, plus this, plus that, plus internationals, it is a lot,” Arteta said. “It is too much for the players.

“It is incredibly demanding. When you see the next 36 months of the calendar for these players, it is just better not to look at it because it is incredible what they are going to be doing.”

The European Championship takes places at end of this season, a new 32-team Club World Cup will be held in the offseason of 2025, and the World Cup in 2026 will be the first involving 48 teams and therefore will last an extra week.

“We have to look after the (players) but, as a club, when do you look after them?” he posed. “To prioritize other competitions? Then we are the ones that have to look after them — what we really need is to be sitting down (discussing plans), but I think it is too late, at least for the next 36 months. It is too late already.

“I don’t know who needs to raise a voice here, but there are worries, big worries on that.”

Arteta said the injury to Timber, signed from Ajax to offer some versatility in defense, was a “huge blow.”

“We recruited him with clear intentions and what he was bringing to the team was evident and he’s not going to be able to do it this season for us,” he said. “We have to adapt. These things happen unfortunately and we have to move on.”

Arteta said Arsenal could go back into the transfer market to strengthen its defense.

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