Fix­ture con­ges­tion a re­gret, but no ex­cuses, says Wenger

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT -

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

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