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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Sep 13, 2008

Wenger vexed by congested fixture schedule

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has called for a change to the fixture list to give the elite European teams a less gruelling schedule as they battle for honours at home and abroad.

The Gunners kick off their Champions League group campaign against Dynamo Kiev in the Ukraine on Wednesday night in the first of three away games following the international break.

To earn their right to again compete with Europe's best, Wenger's squad faced a potentially tricky qualifying tie against Dutch outfit FC Twente - the first leg of which came before the start of the new domestic season.

It is a situation which the Arsenal manager feels has to be addressed.

"There is not much you can say, but the Premier League do not do a lot for us. The qualifiers are in a very bad position," he observed.

"Then the international friendly comes at a bad time for a team which plays in the qualifiers for the Champions League.

"But the main reproach I make - and I have asked this for a long, long time - is that the second [international] game is on the Tuesday.

"For example, Carlos Vela played on Wednesday night - but he did not finish until 4am on Thursday morning, because that was 9pm in Mexico.

"It means it is impossible to get that sort of player back for the next league game.

"You end up paying the players to go to the national team for two games and then you can't use them.

"You have a two-week break, but you can't even use them when they return."

Arsenal maintained their decade-long record of Champions League football after brushing aside Steve McClaren's side 4-0 in the second leg of their qualifier at Emirates Stadium.

However, Wenger knows Group G will be no walk in the park, with Turkish giants Fenerbahce and former winners Porto also in the mix.

"Fenerbahce look to be an upcoming team because last year for the first time they reached the quarter-final and Turkey always have a good support," he said.

"Dynamo Kiev are a bit unknown quantity for the moment because they always look to take the best players from Ukraine and Porto are former champions."

Wenger knows just how important securing an early safe passage into the knock-out stages can be in the battle for sustained success at home.

"It gives you an edge in the Premier League if you qualify early and that you are not under stress to give absolutely everything in one important game, say in match night four, five or six of the group stage.

"But it is very difficult to predict that you will qualify early.

"For example, Manchester United have Villarreal. We know by experience that to go to Villarreal is not easy, and they finished in front of Barcelona last year.

"Then there is Celtic - they are always a difficult game for anybody in the Premier League."

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