Arteta wants fixture protection as Arsenal face quick turnaround
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has urged the Premier League to offer clubs protection from being forced to kick off early on Saturday after playing on Wednesday evening.
Premier League teams competing in the Champions League are not scheduled in the 1230 GMT slot on Saturdays if they played in Europe the previous Wednesday.
However, Arsenal face Aston Villa in a crucial Premier League fixture on Saturday morning, just 63 hours after the full-time whistle blew in their 3-1 defeat against Manchester City.
With Arsenal surrendering top spot in the Premier League to City after that damaging loss, the fatigued Gunners have no margin for error at Villa Park.
While it is too late to help Arsenal on this occasion, Arteta wants the Premier League fixture schedule changed in future to offer protection to all clubs, rather than just those in the Champions League.
“There are certain rules with the Champions League. When you are playing on Wednesday night and then you cannot play (on Saturday lunchtime). So I think that should apply to any competition,” Arteta told reporters on Friday.
“But I think following the same principle, I think you are talking physiologically, that is very difficult to turn around on that period to get the best outcome and reduce the injury risk for players, but that’s it.
“They put the schedule the way they did. It’s a bit unusual, but it’s what it is. The players are highly motivated for tomorrow’s game because we want to perform well and win the game.
“It’s not about being worried or not worried. We have to play. I want the players to be in the best possible mindset and physically ready to get that challenge going.”
Despite his complaints, Arteta was adamant he will not use the kick-off time as an excuse if Arsenal fail to win at Villa.
“We knew we were going to play at that time. That’s not an excuse,” he said.
“I think they (his players) are young. They have a lot of energy.”
Having held an eight-point lead over City just a month ago, Arsenal have stumbled during a run of four games without a win in all competitions.
Their bid for a first Premier League title since 2004 is in danger of imploding, but Arteta believes his young side can cope with the mounting pressure.
“If you want to be at the top, you have to do it. Looking at what they (the players) did the other day gives me a lot of encouragement to think that they are ready,” he said.
“We talked about the position we’re in for a few months now, the way the team is playing and the things you have to do to stay there.”