Walter Mazzarri, who walked into today’s press conference with a list of the injured players just so he can remember them all, was the bearer of more bad news this afternoon.
To compound an injury situation that is bordering on farcical, Isaac Success, who has played just over an hour in two months, could be out for up to three more weeks; Stefano Okaka is not being considered until the home game with Middlesbrough; Daryl Janmaat and Valon Behrami are out for “weeks” while Craig Cathcart is still feeling some pain following hernia surgery. Sky Sports reporter Ian Bolton even asked if Harry the Hornet would come into contention for selection, such is the list of walking wounded.
“We are of course in a difficult situation,” said Mazzarri. “I brought the [piece of] paper just to show you the list of injured players we have got.”
Mazzarri might not be conversing in the language of the country he is working in but he’s a smart enough cookie to know exactly when to offer mitigating circumstances for a run of bad form and indifferent performances. He is, after all, judged on results. The buck tends to stop with him and he’s keen for people to know he’s not playing with the best of hands.
“I want everyone to notice that when results don’t come as positive as we expect, I want to show this was a period when we didn’t have Janmaat, Behrami, Success and Pereyra together. “When we had them we have positive results.”
Has Mazzarri had a frank conversation with his paymasters over this crippling run of injuries and the need to get to the bottom of it? “I don’t need to tell them,” he said. “They are people that work in football for a long time, they know how it works, they see it. I speak with the president a lot, I am always with Filippo [Giraldi, the sporting director]. I don’t tell need to them the situation. They can see it by themselves.”
Cathcart is a case in point. He last played on September 26, didn’t have surgery until November 15 and is still experiencing some discomfort. “He started training with us already,” said Mazzarri, “but he still feels some pain. I can use him but he won’t be at 100 per cent. If I make him start from the first minute it is possible he will not play for the entire 90 minutes as he hasn’t got it in his legs yet.”
Of greater concern is just how injury prone Success and Okaka are. They, to huge frustration, have not been able to string a run of games together since joining in the summer. Mazzarri puts it down to the fact they were not at London Colney for the first day of pre-season. Yes, Okaka joined late in the window but you guess he did some pre-season training with Anderlecht and got some miles in his strapping legs. Success’ arrival was only delayed by a week or so, although he did miss the pre-season trip to Austria because of a visa issue.
“Success will miss two or three more weeks, more or less,” said Mazzarri. “Okaka we are hoping a bit earlier. We are doing all we can. He has big muscles and we need to be careful how we use him. For sure he will be back for Middlesbrough.”