Arsène Wenger has questioned whether modern recovery treatments for players such as cryotherapy actually work and wonders if they have been pushed by specialists with vested interests.
The Arsenal manager is at the beginning of a demanding week, in which his team face West Bromwich at Emirates Stadium on Monday and return to their home ground for another Premier League fixture against Brighton on Sunday, which kicks off at 12 noon. In between times, they play Bate Borisov in Belarus in the Europa League on Thursday.
The manager is unhappy but phlegmatic about the squeeze that has been placed on his squad, saying with a shrug it was television alone that dictated the timings and decreed the West Brom game be moved to a Monday night and the Brighton match should have a midday start.Wenger will make sweeping changes to his team for the European tie, in keeping with his policy for the group phase of the competition, and he will leave a host of names at home in London.
He was more animated when asked for an insight into how the club would help the players to cope with the schedule. Wenger mentioned cryotherapy, among other things – the extreme-cold treatment that proponents say can speed recovery, reduce injuries, increase energy and even improve sleep. He stopped short of calling it mumbo-jumbo, but only just.
“The players will have warm-downs, they have all that, everybody does nowadays,” Wenger said. “Treatment with the physios, massage, cryotherapy – all the stuff where nobody knows whether it is efficient or not.
“No one knows because you have a lot of science. If you read the science, some have proved it works and some have proved it doesn’t work. The ones that prove it works are usually sponsored by the guys who say that it does.
“Is it smoke and mirrors? Yes. Because at the end of the day, since I’ve been in the job, we have improved a lot the medical treatment. A lot. But, still, if you have a muscle problem, it takes 21 days. It took 21 days 30 years ago.
“We have to respect nature and nobody could make miracles unless they doped the players sometimes. That means they inject players for a big game and the guy plays with an injury, with anti-pain.”
Wenger raised his eyebrows when the timing of the West Brom game was brought up. “Television decides,” he said. “Television decides when you play and that’s what you have to do. Where it becomes more difficult is that we play Sunday morning after [against Brighton].
“I think from the Doncaster game [in the Carabao Cup] last Wednesday to Monday night, we have enough time to prepare. After that, from Monday to Thursday, it will be short. And especially from Thursday to Sunday. But you have to adapt. Maybe we have to make some decisions in Borisov that will give us a chance to recover between the two games.”
Wenger’s team beat Doncaster 1-0 to set up a fourth-round tie at home to Norwich City. There has been plenty of discussion over recent years as to the value of the League Cup and José Mourinho, the Manchester United manager, said last week English football might be better off without the competition. The Portuguese believes the clubs with European commitments would be fresher if they did not have to play in it.
Wenger made the point it was impossible for a club to write off any competition they are asked to play in. “You cannot sacrifice deliberately any competition with the pressure that every club is under now,” he said.
“But you know that you could pay the price for it. You know that if you go further in the League Cup, at some stage you play in the semi-final – home and away in January – and you have the FA Cup, the Premier League and, sometimes, you lose players in these competitions.”
Arsenal face a quick reunion with Kieran Gibbs, the left-back they sold to West Brom for £7m on 30 August. Gibbs came through Arsenal’s youth system but he left in search of more regular football. Wenger said the club had not offered the defender a new contract to replace the one that was due to expire in 2018.
Gibbs has said that he believes he can become a better defender with Albion while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who left Arsenal for Liverpool in a £35m deal, feels he will also improve at Anfield.
“You look at the players who performed here and left, and you come back to me after,” Wenger said, on the subject of whether former Arsenal players had found that the grass was greener elsewhere. “You hope it goes well for them. I focus on my squad.”