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Wednesday 20 June 2018

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Arsene Wenger wary of fatigue as Arsenal enter final stretch

The Gunners have at least eight more games left.

Russia Soccer Europa League
Russia Soccer Europa League

By Mark Mann-Bryans, Press Association Sport

Arsene Wenger admits fatigue among his Arsenal squad is becoming a concern as the end of the season nears.

The Gunners have already played 52 games this season after reaching the Europa League semi-finals and going all the way to the Carabao Cup final before losing to Manchester City.

Wenger has shuffled his pack as much as possible in recent weeks, often prioritising the Europa League over Premier League fixtures, with Arsenal 13 points adrift of the top four.

A 2-2 draw at CSKA Moscow on Thursday night was enough to set up a Europa League semi-final clash with Atletico Madrid – at the same time adding more fixtures to Arsenal’s schedule in the closing weeks.

While rotation is likely to continue ahead of the tie with the LaLiga side, Wenger conceded after a poor performance in Russia that tiredness could become a worry.

“It is a little bit of a concern yes because, with the League Cup in the middle of the season, it is so difficult,” he said.

“If you look at (Manchester) City they look a little bit like that as well, they have lost games recently and overall, fortunately next week we can recover a bit.

“I do as much (rotating) as I can but unfortunately some players have to play every game.”

One player who looked particularly in need of a rest following a below-par performance was Jack Wilshere, the England midfielder having played some part in the last eight games across all competitions.

The 26-year-old has established himself in the side after a couple of injury-hit seasons and a loan spell at Bournemouth, with Wenger admitting he may be in need of a breather.

“He got a kick as well on his ankle,” the Frenchman revealed after confirming Wilshere had tired during the game.

“As well, Jack is a player who makes a difference individually and I believe these kinds of players when they are tired they are more in trouble than the players who run less with the ball.”

The draw in Moscow ended a run of six straight wins for Wenger’s side as they look to finish the season strongly.

Success in the Europa League now appears the only route back to the Champions League given the distance to the top four, but the strain of playing on Thursday and again on Sunday is starting to take a toll on his squad.

“Honestly, it is very difficult,” he said.

“It is because we land at 5 o’clock and then play on Sunday morning that is the most difficult.

“The second thing that is very, very difficult is that every time we play, everyone else has played. So not only are you physically a bit jaded but you are under huge pressure every time to win the game, it is mentally maybe more than difficult.”

Press Association

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