Arsenal have been boosted by the decision of their long-serving head of medical services, Gary O’Driscoll, to reject a move to Liverpool and remain in north London.
O’Driscoll originally decided to join Liverpool, who made him their top target to replace the Fifa-bound Andrew Massey, in January but has changed his mind and will continue in his current role at Arsenal. Both personal and professional reasons are believed to be behind his change of heart, with the improved environment under Mikel Arteta a significant factor. The 49-year-old’s family were keen to remain in London while O’Driscoll, although flattered by Liverpool’s interest, feels convinced and excited by the direction in which Arteta wants to take Arsenal.
The highly-rated O’Driscoll joined Arsenal in 2009, originally from a rugby background in which he was the lead doctor on two British and Irish Lions tours. There was an acknowledgement, at the time when his departure looked certain, that he would be very difficult to replace and the club had already issued an advertisement online.
O’Driscoll is a highly popular character behind the scenes and his u-turn will be received well among players and backroom staff. Speaking to the Guardian for an interview conducted when it seemed he was set to leave, the club’s former head physiotherapist Colin Lewin spoke in glowing terms about his ex-colleague. Lewin was part of the interview panel, along with the club’s then-doctor Ian Beasley and former CEO Ivan Gazidis, that appointed O’Driscoll 11 years ago.
“He came in and was clearly very good at what he did; his trauma management was unbelievable having worked in rugby and on Lions tours,” he said. “His first three months, when we got to the Champions League semi-final, were an unbelievable baptism of fire. We had a great relationship and it’ll be a loss for them. We [the panel] made the right decision; we went through an awful lot together and we got on really well.”
Arsenal’s players and staff are currently self-isolating until 24 March after Arteta was diagnosed with coronavirus and O’Driscoll is expected to be an important figure in the club’s management of such a rapidly evolving situation.