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Wenger backs Ferguson in fixture row

Arsene Wenger has backed Sir Alex Ferguson's claim that the Premier League fixture list is unfair and should be changed.

Ferguson has been highly critical this week of the scheduling that has led to his Manchester United side playing a majority of weekend Premier League games away from home following a midweek Champions League clash.

Wenger took the unusual step of agreeing with his longstanding rival after his Arsenal team's 3-1 FA Cup third round victory over Plymouth Argyle at the Emirates Stadium here Saturday.

The Gunners boss believes Ferguson has a case – and pointed to the imbalance of home fixtures across the four Champions League teams to reinforce his claim.

“I saw Ferguson made the case about fixtures,” Arsenal manager Wenger said. “And we checked because we are always curious. And he has a case, and in this case so do we.

“If you take the international fixtures plus the Champions League, everybody has played ten games, six Champions League games and four internationals.

“And after those 10 games, we played eight away games and two at home. Manchester United played nine away games, Chelsea played six games at home and four away. And Liverpool played eight times at home and two away.

“You could argue the biggest disadvantage is not the Champions League but the international games when some of your players play a Wednesday night in Mexico and they cannot even play on Saturday if you kick-off early.”

Wenger said the only solution was to change the Premier League fixture list to match the international and Champions League schedules.

“I would think the way to do it is if you play 10 games after Champions League or internationals then everybody plays five games at home and five away.

“But you have some teams playing eight or nine away and some teams playing eight at home, that is not really a fair competition.

“That is an unfair advantage and that explains a lot. In that case I stand alongside Ferguson.”

Wenger said he felt a sense of relief after Arsenal saw off Championship side Plymouth thanks to two goals from Robin van Persie and a David Gray own-goal.

Dutch striker van Persie was made captain for the day in the absence of goalkeeper Manuel Almunia and the injured Cesc Fabregas even though former skipper William Gallas was in the starting line-up.

“He is always interested in team problems and team affairs and he wants to help sort things out,” Wenger said of van Persie. “In today's team he was the longest servant of the club and he did well.

“I believe he is one of the players who show how well you can have an evolution. When you consider how he was when he came here and who he is today, he has evolved well.

“Not many would have believed he would be captain when he arrived here.”

Arsenal's injury problems got worse when defender Mikael Silvestre was forced out after just 30 minutes with a thigh problem that should keep him out for three weeks.

Meanwhile, Wenger denied reports that Arsenal had received an offfer for centre-back Kolo Toure, who missed this match with a groin problem.

But he did say he might have to review his transfer priorities during the January window after these latest injuries.

“I have to look at it at the moment,” he conceded. “At the moment with the injuries we have we are a bit short everywhere.

“Kolo I hope will not be out for a long time. He has an inflamed groin but Gael Clichy should be back next week.”

Sun 4 January, 2009
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1 Comment:

  1. tula says:

    I think Wenger and Ferguson should just shut up. I dont see Stoke City or Newcastle complaining – that because they’re not at the top.Arsenal, Chelsea, Man U and Liverpool love to be called the “Big 4″ but they want to compare themselves to the “small” teams. I’m happy my own coach (Scolari) is not saying this. Big teams play more matches and if u dont know (Ferguson and Wenger) – life is not fair. That’s what it takes to be one of the big 4. You should have a good 2nd team to take care of the “too many” matches. At least everybody plays the same number of home and away games in the league every season!

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