Gunners face taxing week

Arsenal play three games in seven-day span beginning with Leicester City today

LONDON • Unai Emery has admitted Arsenal will struggle to cope with a draining schedule that sees them host Leicester today at the start of three games in seven days.

His side will be pushed to the limit by TV schedulers, who moved their Premier League clash with the Foxes to this evening at the Emirates Stadium.

The Gunners then travel to Portugal for a Europa League tie against Sporting Lisbon on Thursday before returning to domestic action at Crystal Palace on Sunday.

In contrast, Sporting faced Loures in the Primeira Liga on Saturday night, giving them more time to recover before welcoming Arsenal.

Emery has fielded a strong side in Arsenal's previous Europa League matches, but he will be forced to rotate more heavily this time.

"We are one team with a very high level and (the) demand (is) very high for us," the Spaniard said.

"Every player, they need to feel they can play every match. With only three days difference between one match and another, you can't do that.

"If I decide to play with the same players on Monday, Thursday, Sunday, the players can't do that.

"We want to play a lot of matches. We want to continue doing (it) our way with different possibilities tactically and with the players - but with a lot of matches, we can't do that."

Arsenal are on a nine-match winning streak in all competitions, but extending that run past this week will be challenging.

Although Emery acknowledged that TV rights holders can determine when his team play, he hoped for more common sense.

"We are first of all in one competition (the Premier League) where the TV is very important," the 46-year-old added. "The TV has the target to choose the matches on Friday, Sunday, Monday (but) I prefer to play Saturday or Sunday."

If there is one player that Emery will be counting on to get through the fixture congestion, it is in-form striker Alexandre Lacazette, who will line up against Leicester with praise from both managers ringing in his ears.

The French international, who has five goals in 10 games in all competitions this term, had a tepid debut season but has gotten to grips with English football in the new campaign.

Emery revealed that the former Lyon star had been a transfer target when he was managing French champions Paris Saint-Germain:

"We liked his quality and characteristics. He has a very good mentality and has very good chances usually to score. He is very efficient. This year we are looking at him (to take) one step more in this level. "

Leicester counterpart Claude Puel, who gave Lacazette his Lyon debut in 2010, also hailed the 27-year-old as "a complete player".

"He is always available for the team, with good transition with the ball and without the ball," he said.

"He works all the time and he has kept his clinical edge, and I am not surprised about his quality and his good work with Arsenal."



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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 22, 2018, with the headline 'Gunners face taxing week'. Print Edition | Subscribe