Arsenal’s French manager Arsene Wenger / AFP PHOTO / IKIMAGES / Ian KINGTON
Arsene Wenger has criticised the gruelling schedule that forces Arsenal to play three games in the space of just seven days.
Wenger’s side eased to a 2-0 win over West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League on Monday thanks to Alexandre Lacazette’s brace at the Emirates Stadium in London.
But Wenger and his players had little time to reflect on that success before they board a flight to Belarus for Thursday’s Europa League clash with Bate Borisov.
Once that draining trip is out of the way, Arsenal have been given only 48 hours to recover before they are due to host Brighton in another important Premier League fixture early on Sunday afternoon.
Wenger is frustrated by the way the Premier League fixture planners give in to the demands of television broadcasters without considering the effect it has on players.
Asked if he would field a weaker team against Borisov in Europe’s second-tier tournament, Wenger said: “I have a decision to make. At the moment I would say the schedule for us is a bit cruel.
“We play Monday night, we play in Borisov on Thursday, and we play Sunday morning.
“We have to accept it, but I will go with a team of senior players and certainly a young bench.
“There’s no need to talk to the Premier League because it is television who decides.
“For the team selection it has an impact.”
In the midst of such a busy week, Wenger was relieved to see off obdurate Albion, who could have taken the lead but had an early penalty appeal not given before Lacazette opened the scoring with a 20th-minute header.
Lacazette doubled Arsenal’s lead with a second-half penalty awarded for Allan Nyom’s foul on Aaron Ramsey.
With four goals since his close-season move from Lyon, the France striker is starting to repay his hefty price tag.
“He’s not only a goal scorer, his link up play is good, he fights as well,” Wenger said.
“He’s not fazed by the physical challenges West Brom gave us. Overall he adapts very well.”
– Livid –
The turning point in the game was referee Bobby Madley’s decision not to award a penalty when Jay Rodriguez appeared to be fouled in the first half.
Even Wenger conceded it could have been given.
“The referee gave the advantage but the decision is defendable from both sides. It could have been a penalty,” he said.
Albion manager Tony Pulis was livid with the decision and still hadn’t cooled down by the time he spoke to the media after the match.
“Obviously we believe it’s a penalty, but we haven’t had a penalty for over a year,” Pulis complained.
“Facts are facts. The great thing is that everybody has seen it.
“He still wanted to score but once he has missed the referee should pull it back.
“It could be a penalty and they could have a player sent off so we not only score but are against a team down to 10 players.”
Having enjoyed a stroke of luck with the penalty, Arsenal eventually eased to a win that extended their unbeaten run to five games in all competitions since their thrashing at Liverpool.
Wenger believes establishing a powerful presence in home games is especially important for their title chances.
“What is important is we are strong at home,” he said.
“We have played three difficult away games. It’s important to keep our home strength, we will make results away.
“It was important to take three points tonight because everyone else won, so you feel under pressure.
“We are in a different mental aspect since the Liverpool defeat. We believe in our work.”