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Nov 23, 2012

Wenger calls for fixture revolution

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has called for a revolution in the game, suggesting domestic leagues around the world should start in January and end in November.

• Blog: Giroud leads Arsenal
• Blog: Qualification streak continues

Wenger has urged UEFA and the rest of the game's governing bodies to 'harmonise fixtures around the world' in a proclamation that is set to start a debate across the game in the days ahead.

With the upcoming African Cup of Nations set to see a host of Premier League club's deprived of star players in January, Wenger has suggested a change in the game's calendar now needs to be considered.

The Arsenal boss experienced a January to November season during his time in charge of Nagoya Grampus in Japan and he thinks that is the best way forward for the game around the globe.

"I understand it looks completely strange as people have been educated the current way but I moved to Japan and the season was in January to November," Wenger told the Arsenal website. "We started training in January and after a while it was completely normal, it wasn't as big a shock as I expected it to be and I spent Christmas at home!

"[With a new calendar] you would not be confronted with these situations when players are playing in two different championships. You would play during the summer period in the best period for football to be played.

"Let's not forget the structure when it started. Non-professional football was during the holiday and you started to play football when people went back to work. We have passed that period now. The period of rest would be the same [in international football]. It wouldn't change the number of games.

"It would be a revolution but it would be easier to harmonise all the fixtures around the world and I am convinced FIFA and UEFA would be happy. And you could play a World Cup in Qatar, that is a reason maybe."

Wenger's comments are likely to reverberate with FIFA President Sepp Blatter, who may be forced to consider playing the 2022 World Cup Finals in January due to the extreme heat in June and July in Qatar.

Such a move would be a logistical nightmare if the domestic domestic league set-up was still in place.

Wenger has also played down suggestions that the Premier League is losing its tag as the strongest domestic championship in Europe, insisting England's top flight remains the elite competition.

Manchester City's group stage exit from the Champions League and Chelsea's possible demise has sparked a debate over whether the Premier League has suffered a dip in quality, but Wenger has a swift repose to that suggestion.

"I'd still say England is the strongest because in England if they want a player, they get him still," Wenger said. "As long as that happens, you will be the most powerful in Europe.

"England is best, because there's something more here. It's not only linked with what you see on the pitch but how you experience football. That's what I believe deeply. And when I speak to the players they say exactly the same.

"I don't think we are getting worse. Man City has gone out, but you can objectively say they were in a difficult group and they are still a good side as they are top of the Premier League."

Meanwhile, Arsenal keeper Wojciech Szczesny has claimed the struggles of Premier League champions City and reigning European kings Chelsea in this season's Champions League has come as a massive shock, but he has suggested their woes highlight the impressive consistency Arsenal has shown.

"Arsenal have qualified for the last 16 every year for the last few years," he said. "I don't think us qualifying again is a surprise. I think Chelsea and City not doing as well is a massive surprise but at the moment we're just enjoying getting through.

"We want to get a longer run of good results and good performances and then we can start talking about the real Arsenal. At the moment we've got the momentum we just want to keep it going now. We want to show in our performances how good we are."

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