Mikel Arteta has backed the use of temporary concussion substitutes in football, following the horrific clash of heads between Raúl Jiménez and David Luiz during Arsenal’s defeat by Wolves.
The pair collided when contesting a corner early in Sunday night’s game and, while Jiménez was taken to hospital after a 10-minute delay having sustained a fractured skull, David Luiz played on with a bandaged head wound. He was substituted at half-time and Arsenal were criticised for allowing him to continue, although there is no suggestion they failed to follow concussion protocols.
Arteta added his voice to growing calls for a short-term replacement to be allowed for occasions when there is any remaining doubt about a player’s condition. The law-making International Football Association Board is considering whether to allow teams an extra change in the event of a head injury but these would be permanent, not temporary, substitutions. If a player from one team goes off in those circumstances, the other manager would also be allowed to make a change.
“We were very comfortable for him to carry on playing,” Arteta said of David Luiz. “But really you have to make a decision in one minute, when someone is bleeding, when you have a massive concussion next to you with someone whose life is under threat, and maybe it is a moment where we can think to give [medical staff] a little more time and use a temporary substitution for example if we find ourselves in those positions.
“If you have any doubt, at any moment, and you need an extra two minutes or five minutes to check someone, maybe we can think about that. After five minutes you need to make a decision to find a sub, the player is really pushing you, he was totally conscious about the situation, the player wants to carry on playing and the doctor has to tick all the necessary boxes to be certain that the player is OK to continue. If we have any extra doubt, OK, we give them a bit more time if necessary but as well you cannot play 10 or 15 minutes with 10 men.”
Arteta said it was important to be “extra careful, extra cautious” in such situations and said conversations had previously taken place with his medical staff – led by the highly respected head of medical services Gary O’Driscoll – about the introduction of concussion substitutes. He expects David Luiz to be passed fit for Sunday’s derby at Tottenham provided the player’s wound has healed sufficiently for him to head the ball in comfort.
Arsenal host Rapid Vienna in the Europa League on Thursday night in what is essentially a non-competitive fixture for Arteta’s side given they have qualified from Group B and look certain to top it. The presence of 2,000 fans inside the Emirates for the first time since March provides a welcome lift, though, with Arteta under growing pressure following a run of three consecutive home defeats in the Premier League. He intends to battle through the increasing level of noises about his side’s position.
“This is where we are and I’m ready to fight,” he said. “We are going through difficult periods, we will see who responds, who doesn’t and how we react as a club through different periods, and how we stick together when things aren’t going well.
“When things are going well, it’s easy. Everybody wants to be there on the front pages, on the TV celebrating, being part of something, but unfortunately at the moment we aren’t that good and the lines are really thin.”