Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has criticised the Premier League’s holiday fixture schedule, calling it “absolutely unbelievable” that leaders Chelsea get more rest than other teams.
Arsenal travel to Bournemouth on Tuesday just two days after hosting Crystal Palace at home on Sunday, while most teams that played on Saturday also had games on Monday. However, Chelsea — who are nine points ahead of the third-place Gunners — were given three days’ rest between Saturday’s win over Stoke and Wednesday’s key clash at Tottenham.
“It is, in 20 years, the most uneven Christmas period I have seen on the fixture front,” said Wenger, who took the Arsenal job in 1996. “The difference in rest periods is absolutely unbelievable.”
Wenger’s situation is made worse by Mesut Ozil’s illness and short-term injuries to Theo Walcott and Kieran Gibbs that forced all three out of Sunday’s 2-0 win over Palace and could limit his ability to rotate the squad unless they recover quickly. However, Arsenal were boosted by the return of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain from a hamstring problem, and the midfielder could be among a handful of changes to Wenger’s starting XI at Bournemouth.
Aaron Ramsey, Francis Coquelin and Shkodran Mustafi could also start after being on the bench against Palace.
“We go now into another game in 48 hours with a big handicap in our fixtures, and I have to try to find some fresh legs,” Wenger said.
Palace boss Sam Allardyce also complained about the tight scheduling, saying that “I don’t know who does the fixtures, but he really needs sacking.”
Wenger, however, said there was no point in complaining to the Premier League as it’s the TV rights holders who select the games they want to broadcast live.
“Honestly, I don’t know any more if the Premier League masters the fixtures,” Wenger said. “We have sold the rights to the television for a lot of money so we have to accept that the television chooses the games.
“But I must say on that front, some teams have a bit more luck than others. We are privileged in our job, we get a lot of money to play football and it is part of it. But sometimes it goes for you, sometimes against you.”