LONDON • Arsene Wenger has criticised the gruelling schedule that forces Arsenal to play three games in the space of just seven days.
His side eased to a 2-0 win over West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League on Monday thanks to Alexandre Lacazette's brace at the Emirates Stadium in London.
But the manager and his players had little time to reflect on that success before they board a flight to Belarus for tomorrow's Europa League clash with Bate Borisov.
Once that draining trip is out of the way, Arsenal have been given only 48 hours to recover before they are due to host Brighton in another Premier League fixture on Sunday afternoon.
Wenger, who for years has taken issue with the scheduling of matches, is frustrated by the way the Premier League fixture planners give in to the demands of television broadcasters without considering the effect they have on players.
Asked if he would field a weaker team against Borisov in Europe's second-tier tournament, he said: "I have a decision to make. At the moment I would say the schedule for us is a bit cruel.
"We have to accept it, but I will go with a team of senior players and certainly a young bench. There's no need to talk to the Premier League because it is television who decides. For the team selection (viewpoint), it has an impact."
In the midst of such a busy week, Wenger was relieved to see off obdurate West Brom, who could have taken the lead but had an early penalty appeal not given before Lacazette opened the scoring with a 20th-minute header.
Lacazette doubled Arsenal's lead with a second-half penalty awarded for Allan Nyom's foul on Aaron Ramsey.
With four goals since his close-season move from Lyon, the France striker is starting to repay his hefty price tag.
"He's not only a goal scorer, his link-up play is good, he fights as well," Wenger said. "He's not fazed by the physical challenges West Brom gave us. Overall he adapts very well."
The turning point in the game was referee Bobby Madley's decision not to award a penalty when Jay Rodriguez appeared to be fouled in the first half. Even Wenger conceded it could have been given.
"The referee gave the advantage but the decision is defendable from both sides. It could have been a penalty," he said.
West Ham manager Tony Pulis was livid with the decision and still had not cooled down by the time he spoke to the media after the match.
"Obviously we believe it's a penalty, but we haven't had a penalty for over a year," he complained. "Facts are facts. The great thing is that everybody has seen it.
"It could be a penalty and they could have a player sent off so we not only score but are against a team down to 10 players."
Pulis also branded Alexis Sanchez a cheat after accusing the Chile striker of diving to win a free kick in the first half with a theatrical fall after a challenge from Craig Dawson.
Having enjoyed a stroke of luck with the penalty, Arsenal eventually eased to a win that extended their unbeaten run to five games in all competitions since their 4-0 thrashing at Liverpool.
Wenger believes establishing a powerful presence in home games is especially important for their title chances. "What is important is we are strong at home," he said.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE TIMES, LONDON