The season is rapidly approaching its halfway point, and with it the winter transfer window. As injuries have begun to pile up, so have the rumors that Arsenal FC will be in the market for a defender. But on Monday, rumors of the positive kind began to surface that Jurrien Timber, who has been recovering from an ACL injury suffered on the opening day of the season, may be back on the pitch for Arsenal well before the season is over.
The news should be taken with a rather large grain of salt, as it has been reported through Twitter/X ITK MoArsenal (who has largely been more right than wrong in their reporting) and not a proper journalistic outlet, but the news is not insignificant. It appears that the Dutch defender is aiming to return to training as early as January and wants to be part of the squad for the first Champions League round of 16 leg at Porto in late February.
Jurrien Timber is on track to return to training in January and is now aiming to make the squad for the trip to Porto on Feb. 21, per source.— Mo (@MoArsenal86) December 19, 2023
Remarkable recovery. https://t.co/DUaf7wKyJ1
ACL surgeries have a notoriously long recovery time, even for elite athletes, and it often comes with a marked downturn in production. You don’t have to look too far back into Arsenal’s history to see the impact on players like Hector Bellerin and Rob Holding, both of whom saw noticeable drops in productivity post surgery. Sure, there are freak outliers, but even those have been after over 6 months of recovery, most notably Adrian Peterson whose 8 month recovery in 2012 was viewed as absurd.
There are certainly factors that impact it, such as the grade of the tear, whether the meniscus was damaged as well, age, overall health, and recovery regimen. It’s safe to assume that Timber, as a young elite athlete with access to world-class facilities and doctors, would have a faster recovery than most. But Timber’s injury and subsequent surgery occurred in mid-August, which would put his recovery at an astonishing 6 months if he were to indeed rejoin first team training as early as February.
All of this is to say - don’t hold your breath. Although I am (and was) worlds away from being as close to the level of athlete that Timber is, I remember the excruciatingly long ordeal of recovery when I tore my ACL 8 years ago. I cannot imagine that, even if he is capable of running outside soon, his knee will be strong enough to endure the physical nature of the game after 6 months, not to mention the mental roadblock that comes with surgery recovery. Every bump, knock, and tackle will have Arsenal fans holding their breath, and he may be more cautious about challenges as a result.
Would I love to eat crow about this? Sure. But am I totally fine with shelving him for the season so he is back at full health and fitness next season? 100%. Even before this news, I had seen countless fans optimistic that he will be a factor this season, completely overlooking the severity of the injury. I just can’t see Arteta risking his long-term health when he has plenty of football ahead of him.
As always, we will keep this space updated as further news is available.