Despite the general buzz that followed Arsenal’s incredibly important and assertive 2-0 victory over Chelsea on Saturday, Gunner fans were all bracing for bad news following an agonizing knee injury suffered by Hector Bellerin in the second half of the match that saw the 23 year old stretchered off the field.
Much to the club and the fans’ dismay, it has been reported today by several outlets, including the Ornacle himself David Ornstein, that Bellerin has suffered an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury, as well as damage to his meniscus. The severity of the injury is palpable, as it is expected to take upwards of nine months before Bellerin could return to the club.
As per @DaveHytner Bellerín ruptured ACL confirmed in scan today, 6-9 months. Rest of squad were paintballing pre #MUFC. Francis Cagigao tipped by many to succeed Mislintat as HoR with Monchi among names for TD (no timescale). #AFC want 2 loan deals, 1 being Suarez but not close— David Ornstein (@bbcsport_david) January 21, 2019
Bellerin’s injury occurred when challenging for a loose ball in the 68th minute. Much like Rob Holding’s ACL injury against Manchester United, Bellerin’s injury came without any contact. As he lunged toward the loose ball off of his left leg, his left knee gave out on him, sending him to the pitch immediately. For decency’s sake, we won’t link the video to the injury, although it is out there for the morbidly curious.
As with all injuries, the time between injury and official prognosis was riddled with prognostication by fans and experts alike. Joining the fray after being asked by literally no one was infamous former NFL team orthopedic surgeon Dr. David J. Chao, who made the spurious assertion that Bellerin’s injury was a quad tendon and not ACL, based solely on his interpretation of the video.
This type of instant injury analysis isn’t uncommon. I’m sure every Arsenal fan who watched the match jumped to an immediate conclusion of some sort - some based on personal experience with knee injuries (like I did), and some based on the general idea that, when a player goes down in clear anguish without any contact having happened, the injury is probably severe. But why is Dr. Chao’s tweet so singularly bad?
For those that don't know about Dr. Chao, he has an awful reputation, having been sued multiple times for negligence, malpractice, and personal injury, as well as arrests for multiple DUIs and fraud. That he lasted so long as a licensed team doctor for the Chargers in the NFL was baffling to many. However, he now makes a living as a private practice orthopedic surgeon and provides “real time injury info” per his Twitter bio.
His assertion of the nature of Bellerin’s injury was, as we now know, clearly wrong, which brings us to the point of this side-topic - misinformation can only make things worse. By putting his “diagnosis” out as fact, he only muddies up the truth when it finally is revealed. Even if it has no bearing on Bellerin, his injury, or his recovery, it still creates confusion and misinformation in the fans, which are bad in their own right.
What remains unclear is how Bellerin’s injury affects Arsenal in the rapidly waning winter transfer window. We and others have written ad nauseam about Arsenal’s defensive woes that were only compounded by the litany of injuries the club has endured over the course of the season. With very few quality defenders to select from, Arsenal’s defensive depth gets even thinner, and Emery has given no definitive answer as to how this injury affects the club’s transfer business.
Another unfortunate side effect of Bellerin’s injury is the selection predicament Arsenal now face. At right back, Arsenal must choose from ancient and clearly dreadful Stephan Lichsteiner, young but still very green Ainsley Maitland-Niles, and perennial back up Carl Jenkinson. Any way you slice it, the Gunners are going to have to tread carefully going forward, as any other long-term defensive injuries could seriously hurt the club’s chances of success.
As with any injury, we are heartbroken to see one of our own forced off during such a crucial time in their development. Although it doesn’t feel like it, Bellerin is only 23, entering the prime years of his career. He has begun to flourish in Unai Emery’s Arsenal, and his injury derails his progress, at least for the interim. His overlapping runs and crosses will be missed, and hopefully he will have plenty of time to continue his fashion career as he recuperates from his upcoming surgery.
God speed, Hector.