DAR­REN BURGESS

HEAD OF HIGH PER­FOR­MANCE

FourFourTwo - - UNAI EMERY -

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.

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