ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE
Wenger rues fixture pile-up after great escape
London — A despairing Arsene Wenger insisted Arsenal were put at a major disadvantage before his side staged an epic escape in their 3-3 draw at Bournemouth.
Charlie Daniels, Callum Wilson and Ryan Fraser gave Bournemouth a shock 3-0 lead at Dean Court on Tuesday before Alexis Sanchez, Lucas Perez and Olivier Giroud netted to complete a stunning fightback.
But Gunners boss Wenger blamed his team’s sluggish start on an extra 24 hours preparation for Bournemouth, who played on Saturday, as opposed to Arsenal, who beat Crystal Palace 2-0 only 48 hours before the game.
And he suggested Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Laurent Koscielny, Gabriel and Hector Bellerin were not fully fit to play in a match that left Arsenal eight points behind leaders Chelsea, who have a game in hand at Tottenham on Wednesday.
"It was a physical test and a mental test," said Wenger. "It is too uneven to have only two days to play against a team who had over three days’ rest.
"Hector Bellerin had a knock, [he] was uncertain to play. That is the problem when you [only] had 48 hours [rest]. We had three or four players who we had to wait on till the warm-up — Koscielny, Gabriel, I did not start Oxlade-Chamberlain as I could not take a gamble with him. It complicates the job a lot but we have to shut up and cope with it," Wenger said.
"I’m ready to play again tomorrow as long as I play against an opponent who played today as well.
"That is what I call fair. All the rest, we have to play when we are told to play. We want to play against a team with the same time of rest and preparation as us," Wenger said.
Even Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe conceded his side had been given a helping hand by the extra day.
"I’m not going to deny that will have had an impact on the game but that’s why you change the squad," he said.
Wenger’s frustrations continued when midfielder Francis Coquelin was forced off in the first half.
"Coquelin has a hamstring [injury], I don’t know [how serious], it’s too early to say," he said. "We have to wait 48 hours.
"We have mixed feelings after a game like that.
"We wanted three points and we got one. But when you are
3-0 down after 70 minutes you take a point as well."
Bournemouth were without on-loan Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere, who was ineligible to play against his parent club.
Howe said the watching England international was put through the wringer by the tense finale. "Jack’s a key part of our team and has got better and better," he said.
"I don’t mind people talking about Jack. I think it’s good from both sides that our players are talked about positively. We like to think our story is unique…. It helps raise our profile that we can accommodate big players.
"I’d imagine Jack will have mixed emotions about the result."