Sport Soccer

Tuesday 28 January 2020

Season starting too early - Wenger

Arsene Wenger is wary of a post-World Cup hangover in the Premier League
Arsene Wenger is wary of a post-World Cup hangover in the Premier League

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger feels it makes no sense for the Barclays Premier League season to kick off this weekend, with players still fatigued from the World Cup.

Triumphant Germany trio Per Mertesacker, Mesut Ozil and Lukas Podolski have all only just returned to the Gunners' Hertfordshire training base and will not feature in Saturday's season opener against Crystal Palace or, in all likelihood, Tuesday's Champions League play-off first leg at Beskitas.

The Gunners are, of course, not the only club to have seen preparations for the 2014/2015 campaign interrupted by a staggered return - with new Manchester United boss Luis van Gaal jetting back after Holland lost their semi-final against Argentina to swiftly head out on tour with the Red Devils to the United States.

With the Champions League final not set to be played until June 6 in Berlin, Wenger would have liked to see England following Spain and Italy with later opening fixtures.

"We are a bit short in our preparation," he said. "We had 11 players at the World Cup. Many of them had longer holidays after that.

"The final of the World Cup was on July 13; the start of the Premier League season is August 16. If you want to give some holiday to the players, your preparation becomes very short.

"We could have done with one week later, with all the competitions."

Wenger added: "If you don't give players enough holiday or enough build-up in their preparation and play them straight away, then they get injured.

"For example you have (Paris St Germain and Brazil pair) Thiago Silva and David Luiz, who came back a bit earlier and played straight away. Thiago Silva is out for a month, David Luiz is injured as well.

"In FIFA rules, you have to give four weeks holiday to the players. They need a breather.

"I have had the experience of post-World Cup years and they are always difficult years to get everyone back to the same level, mentally and physically."

France have already started their new domestic season, and Wenger believes the impact of a World Cup hangover is clear.

"You look at the results last week," he said. "Paris St Germain played a draw at Lens and Monaco, who looked fit here (in the Emirates Cup) lost at home to Lorient.

"It is a bit levelling. Until everyone gets going, it could take some take time for some clubs."

Wenger hopes Arsenal can overcome any issues to hit the ground running.

"I focus mainly on the players not at the World Cup," he said. "I have a few - (Aaron) Ramsey, (Kieran) Gibbs, (Calum) Chambers - and they are ready because they have had a normal start and are prepared."

Spanish midfielder Mikel Arteta - named as club captain following the departure of Thomas Vermaelen for Barcelona - was another not involved on international duty.

Arteta, signed from Everton, is coming into the final season of his current Arsenal contract and as yet there has been no firm talks over an extension.

Wenger said of the 32-year-old: "You know the (club) policy (on extending for senior players). Nobody accepts it, but even at (the age of) 75 you ideally want to sign for one more year.

"He is a strong personality, Mikel Arteta. I don't really doubt that he will extend his contract, but at the moment it is not done."

Wenger could yet bring in defensive cover, and Arsenal have been linked with Greece international Kostas Manolas.

"If we find a candidate, I don't rule it out," he said.

"We have many games to play. If Chambers goes into midfield, we are short at the back.

"If we find somebody, we will do it."

PA Media

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