Fixture congestion a regret, but no excuses, says Wenger
ARSENAL manager Arsene Wenger says that his side cannot let fixture congestion get the better of them as they look to defend their five-point lead in the Premier League.
Arsenal visit title rivals Manchester City in today’s early game, just over two days after returning from a Champions League match away to Napoli.
Midfielder Mikel Arteta said he found it difficult to understand the timing of Saturday’s match, but while Wenger sympathises with the Spaniard, he knows there is nothing that the club can do about it.
“To be completely honest, if you had given me the opportunity to do it, I would not have done it like that, but I do not complain,” said Wenger.
“That is not an excuse for us at all. We have the fixtures we have. It is another opportunity to show we have the mental strength to deal with it.”
He added: “I am convinced we believe in ourselves anyway, no matter what happens.
“Let’s not forget as well that if you are in City’s position and they lose, then they are nine points behind, so they have more negative pressure than we have.
“We have a positive pressure that we can make a big difference with them, so let’s look at it like them. We have an opportunity to go from five (points) to eight; that is fantastic. We have to look at it like that.”
Right- back Bacary Sagna may be fit enough to face City after a hamstring injury, but Wenger says that Lukas Podolski is not yet ready to play after overcoming a hamstring complaint of his own.
“He is available,” Wenger said. “I feel he is still a bit short to go into a match of that level of intensity, but after this weekend I will consider him to be available.”
Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini apologised yesterday for the miscalculation that may have cost his side top spot in their Champions League group.
City came from two goals down to win 3- 2 at Bayern Munich in their final Group D match on Tuesday, but they would have overtaken the reigning champions at the top of the pool if they had scored another goal.
Having won 3- 1 in the reverse fixture, Bayern finished above Pellegrini’s side thanks to their superior headto-head record, meaning City are likely to be handed a daunting tie when the draw for the round of 16 is made on Monday.
Speaking immediately after the game in Munich, Pellegrini gave the impression that he thought City needed to win by three goals to top the group, and he has now admitted that he got his sums wrong.
“It shouldn’t have been happening, but it is very easy why it happened,” he explained at a press conference. “Before the match I knew we had to win 30 because we needed one goal more than they scored here.
“After, when they score the first goal, I continued (thinking) that 3-1 was not enough because they had a better goal difference, so I continued (thinking) that we had to win by three goals; 3-0 or 4-1.
“After, when they scored the second goal, I didn’t continue thinking about what happened if we scored four goals.
“That was my mistake, because not many teams score four goals against Bayern Munich. I tried to think better about how to arrange the game that we were losing 2-0.
“First of all, I recognise absolutely my mistake, but I don’t have any guilty conscience about what we did because we always tried to score the fourth goal.”
He added: “I apologise for me and the team that we couldn’t score four goals against Bayern Munich.”
Pellegrini played down the significance of City’s failure to secure first place in the group and said qualification was all that mattered.
“That is the most important thing. I am not afraid of who we are going to play in the round of 16,” he said.
“I don’t believe some teams are weaker than the other teams. I believe the 16 best teams in Europe are all exactly the same for us.
“I think the trust the team has after beating Bayern Munich in their own stadium, that is much much more important than being first in the group,” he added.
“We need to be at least three points near the top. All the teams, especially if we win, will be near us. There are six or seven teams fighting for the title.” – Sapa-AFP