Europe no bur­den for Arse­nal, says Wenger

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Arse­nal man­ager Arsene Wenger does not be­lieve the teams free of Cham­pi­ons League com­mit­ment have an ad­van­tage in the Pre­mier League de­spite both Liver­pool and Chelsea out­strip­ping his side.

Liver­pool are top af­ter crush­ing Wat­ford 6-1, with Chelsea a point back in sec­ond fol­low­ing a scin­til­lat­ing 5-0 win over Ever­ton, and nei­ther side must con­tend with Eu­ro­pean dis­trac­tions.

Arse­nal sit a point fur­ther back in fourth place fol­low­ing Sun­day’s 1-1 draw with Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur, which fol­lowed a 3-2 win away to Bul­gar­ian side Lu­do­gorets Raz­grad in the Cham­pi­ons League.

“It’s a bit eas­ier to pre­pare for games be­cause you do not have the in­ten­sity of a Cham­pi­ons League game, but if you asked them (Liver­pool and Chelsea), both would like to play in there,” Wenger said.

“So you can­not com­plain about that. There’s a lit­tle phys­i­cal ad­van­tage, for sure, es­pe­cially af­ter the Eu­ro­pean weeks, but we have to live with that.

“It’s not an ex­cuse. Even if they’re in front, it’s a small dif­fer­ence af­ter 11 games. It’s very tight.” While Wenger did not feel Arse­nal’s Eu­ro­pean ex­er­tions had weighed too heav­ily on his play­ers, he was at a loss to ex­plain the drop in their level of in­ten­sity against Tot­ten­ham.

Af­ter a strong start by Spurs, Arse­nal took the up­per hand and went ahead in the 42nd minute when Kevin Wim­mer headed Me­sut Ozil’s free-kick into his own net. But Harry Kane equalised with a penalty early in the sec­ond half af­ter Lau­rent Ko­scielny im­peded Mousa Dem­bele, in what Wenger felt was a “harsh” de­ci­sion, and Arse­nal could not find a sec­ond wind.

“Did we get a lit­tle men­tal blow when they equalised? I don’t know,” Wenger said. “But over­all when we were ques­tioned in the fi­nal 30 min­utes, we had no phys­i­cal an­swer good enough to win the game. I can­not ques­tion the spirit, but we looked a bit flat.”

As well as wel­com­ing Kane back from a seven-week lay-off, Spurs man­ager Mauri­cio Po­chet­tino sprang a sur­prise by set­ting his team out with a back three.

Arse­nal winger Theo Wal­cott said the hosts had been sur­prised by the move, but Wenger in­sisted his play­ers had been pre­pared for the even­tu­al­ity.

Chelsea’s re­cent fine form was sparked by a sec­ond-half switch to a 3-4-3 sys­tem dur­ing their 3 PO­CHET­TINO ALL SMILES-0 de­feat at Arse­nal in late Sep­tem­ber, but Po­chet­tino said he had not taken their ap­proach as in­spi­ra­tion.

“Be­cause Chelsea won 5-0 yes­ter­day (Satur­day), they didn’t dis­cover the sys­tem,” he said.

“It’s a good sys­tem to use de­pend­ing on the play­ers. But we don’t play like Chelsea. We play with two strik­ers and Chris­tian (Erik­sen) be­hind.”

Dem­bele was Spurs’ stand-out player and hauled them back into the game by win­ning the penalty af­ter driv­ing into the Arse­nal box from deep in char­ac­ter­is­tic fash­ion.Po­chet­tino de­scribed the Bel­gium in­ter­na­tional as “a ge­nius”.

While Spurs have now gone seven games with­out a win in all com­pe­ti­tions, they have avoided de­feat in their first 11 league games for the first time since the Dou­ble sea­son of 1960-61.

Spurs have lost Dele Alli to what Po­chet­tino termed a “mi­nor” knee in­jury and he con­ceded he will need to jug­gle his re­sources skil­fully if his team are to re­peat last sea­son’s ti­tle chal­lenge.

“All teams have good and bad mo­ments dur­ing the sea­son,” said the Ar­gen­tine, whose side re­mained fifth in the ta­ble.

“If you have bad mo­ments, like we suf­fered last month, and you are still un­beaten, all I can do is smile. Be­cause I’m happy.

“When you com­pete in the Cham­pi­ons League and the Pre­mier League, which for me are the tough­est com­pe­ti­tions in the world, you need all the squad fit.

“We have suf­fered some is­sues and maybe we can­not ro­tate in the way we want to give fresh­ness and put the play­ers in their best con­di­tion, so we have to use the same play­ers.

“But I’m very happy with the way we fin­ished now. The feel­ing is fan­tas­tic.” — AFP

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