HEAD OF HIGH PERFORMANCE
There aren’t many men who can say they’ve been headhunted by Arsene Wenger, but Darren Burgess is one of them. In June last year, the Australian received a surprise telephone call from Ivan Gazidis. Arsenal’s chief executive proposed a meeting with Wenger and majority shareholder Stan Kroenke to discuss becoming the Gunners’ head of high performance. His then employers, Aussie Rules club Port Adelaide, didn’t stand in his way.
Wenger told Burgess he was growing increasingly concerned that his players were picking up too many injuries and falling behind their Premier League rivals physically. It was a big task, but Burgess was all too familiar with the demands of English football – he had already spent two years as Liverpool’s head of fitness and conditioning from June 2010.
His work with the Merseysiders helped to establish the 43-year-old’s reputation as one of the game’s top fitness experts. “Darren’s got great personal skills,” said Liverpool’s former doctor Peter Brukner. “It can be a bit of a thankless task. Most players just want to play and don’t want to do the fitness work. He’s got a knack for getting footballers to do things. He’s knowledgeable but also so humble and unassuming. He gets on with managers and coaches very well.”
Burgess was one of the first coaches to use GPS monitoring devices to track the workload of players so their training could be tailored, and his application of cutting-edge technology is now paying dividends at the Emirates Stadium. The Gunners ended 2017-18 with only three players sidelined through injury – Mesut Ozil, Laurent Koscielny and Mohamed Elneny – while he nursed now-departed Jack Wilshere back to fitness following a series of setbacks in recent seasons.