Arsene Wenger: Bournemouth's extra rest 'too big a handicap' for Arsenal
Arsene Wenger blamed the Premier League scheduling for Arsenal's poor start but admitted he must "shut up and cope with it" after they rallied from 3-0 down to draw 3-3 draw at Bournemouth on Tuesday.
Wenger said Bournemouth's extra day of rest since the previous fixture was "too big a handicap" for his team, who looked to be heading for defeat until they struck three times in the last 20 minutes.
The Cherries were 2-0 up after 21 minutes as Charlie Daniels scored and Callum Wilson converted a penalty, with Ryan Fraser making it 3-0 shortly before the hour.
But Alexis Sanchez started the comeback with a header and Lucas Perez netted his first Premier League goal with a spectacular volley before Olivier Giroud headed the equaliser in injury time.
"They [Bournemouth] deserve a lot of credit, but I think the disadvantage [of a day less rest] is too big," Wenger told Sky Sports.
"When you play against a team that has over three days recovery and you played on Sunday, late afternoon, it's too big a handicap at the start.
"And they are a good side, a good team. They played at a tremendous pace and they looked always dangerous, committed. That's why the game was difficult."
In his postgame news conference, Wenger revealed that the short turnaround from the Gunners' previous game on Sunday against Crystal Palace left him unsure who was fit to play until the final moments before he announced his team.
"We had three or four players we had to play tonight that we had to wait until the warm-up to see if they could play," said Wenger. "Hector Bellerin had a knock so he was uncertain to play, and that's the problem with only 48 hours [between games]; you have to play some players again.
"Laurent Koscielny too, and we had Gabriel [Paulista] that we didn't start in the end. And then I didn't start Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain because I didn't take a gamble with him, because I didn't know who we'd have to take off.
"This complicates the job a lot, but we have to shut up and cope with it."
The manager also paid tribute to the way his team had responded, praising their mental fortitude.
"Overall, I believe we refused to lose the game, basically, and there is a great resilience in the team and you've seen that again today," he told Sky. "I must recognise my team has shown great mental strength.
"In terms of our ambitions we dropped two points. But we have to do better in the other games and hope that the other teams who come here will drop points as well.
"It was not the result we wanted before the game, but at 3-0 down we would have settled for 3-3."
Giroud, who scored a stunning 'scorpion' goal in the win over Crystal Palace on Sunday, said the Gunners "should not have made the kind of mistakes" that had seen them 3-0 down.
"It's a shame we conceded three goals like that," he added. "It's very frustrating, and hopefully we're going to learn from our mistakes today."
Midfielder Aaron Ramsey said the result did little to help Arsenal's title hopes, with Chelsea having a chance to go 11 points clear of the Gunners if they beat Tottenham on Wednesday.
"We are prepared to fight until the end, that's the message we hope to give out," he said. "But it's going to be difficult now -- we're a few points behind."
Meanwhile, Francis Coquelin could be set for a spell on the sidelines after sustaining a hamstring problem in the first half.
Mattias is ESPN FC's Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.