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Gary O’Driscoll u-turn points to greater hope

Gary O’Driscoll, Arsenal’s Head of Medical Services, has made a surprising u-turn ahead of his anticipated move to Liverpool and will remain with the club. His change of heart is said to be motivated by the growth and development he has seen under head coach Mikel Arteta. Hope, then, abounds.

There have been plenty of questions surrounding Arsenal’s medical processes over the years. The number of injuries they suffer, the extent of their problems, the delay in players’ returns to the team, the lack of fitness within the squad, Arsene Wenger’s neglect of physical testing in regards to selecting players who were in the red zone and at risk of re-injuring themselves.

However, at present, the club had a world-renowned Head of Medical Services in place. Gary O’Driscoll is seen as an expert in the industry. He worked with the British and Irish Lions, the Irish rugby union team, and was courted by Liverpool earlier this season to head up their medical services.

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In fact, O’Driscoll was said to have accepted Liverpool’s approach. Arsenal, in fact, advertised for his replacement in January and there was great anticipation that O’Driscoll would be moving on.

However, this week, as reported by David Ornstein of The Athletic, O’Driscoll is now set to stay with the Gunners, making a remarkable u-turn in now rejecting the role that Liverpool had previously carved out for him.

The decision is surprising, to say the least, but it seems as though the recent development of the club under new head coach Mikel Arteta — and the trajectory of where the club is seemingly heading — has played a key motivational role in convincing O’Driscoll to remain at London Colney. In the same piece, Ornstein reported:

“Impassioned pleas by technical director Edu and head coach Mikel Arteta, in particular, helped convince the former Ireland rugby union medic not to leave. The development is seen across the industry as something of a coup, given the regard in which O’Driscoll is held.”

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That O’Driscoll is viewed as ‘something of a coup’ is impressive, in and of itself. Having efficient, well-run medical services is critical to being a successful team, and the way he has handled the recent COVID-19 outbreak is said to have been exemplary. But what is really encouraging about this report is the motivation for his change in decision.

O’Driscoll is clearly confident in where Arsenal are heading. He believes in Edu Gaspar as Technical Director. He has seen the impact that Arteta has inspired as the new head coach. He wants to be a part of the club’s future, and that is not something you could say about previous coaches and management — Ivan Gazidis and Sven Mislintat both resigned within a year of Arsene Wenger’s resignation.

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In O’Driscoll’s eyes, then, Arteta is changing Arsenal for the better. And that, if nothing else, provides hope for what is to come.

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