Freak injuries, stoppage-time goals, questionable, inconsistent officiating and heavy defeats have made it a challenging Christmas for the head coach, to say the least, ahead of Boxing Day’s trip to Liverpool.
It’s hard to imagine he’s ever gone through a period in which so many key players have picked up injuries, as problem after problem has presented itself but it’s certain that he has never had to contend with players hurting themselves with such a high degree of misfortune. Patrick Bamford’s hamstring injury came during his celebration of a late goal against Brentford. Two of the bones in Pascal Struijk’s feet collided during an ‘explosive moment’ on the training pitch. Liam Cooper did his hamstring landing awkwardly.
The list was extensive in the extreme, even before Charlie Cresswell sustained a shoulder injury in a training-ground accident and guideline-conscious, vaccinated Diego Llorente fell ill to Covid-19 ahead of an Arsenal game that Jack Harrison limped out of. An obvious question to ask, of the coach whose training sessions and playing style are famed for their intensity, is whether or not the sheer number of absentees risks putting an increasing strain on those left, the first teamers still standing in a small squad, who really have no option but to play.
Bielsa, who is content that the injuries are not linked to overexertion, still sees a team capable of running hard.
“The type of injuries we have had are injuries in the tendons and muscles in the lower part of the feet and in the bones of the shoulders, apart from Bamford who got injured celebrating a goal and [Daniel] James who got injured in the last game,” he said.
“They’re not injuries linked to tiredness, the team continues to run as always. On Thursday in the last minute of a practice that was informal, a team-mate fell on Cresswell, who was going to play, it provoked an injury that is complex.
“The player [Llorente] who looks after his health the most in the whole squad, in a squad where all of the players are double or triple vaccinated, gets ill.”