Wenger hits back in fixtures row

Arsene Wenger insists his team get no favours from the fixture schedulers as his team prepare for a crunch period of games.

Arsene Wenger

Wenger was responding to comments from Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho, who claimed last week that the current Premier League leaders had a certain "influence" over their schedule.

Wenger was at pains to point out that is not the case and said an independent study had shown that his side are actually the ones who suffer.

"It is simple. Look at the fixtures and analyse it. I trust you will give an objective view," the Frenchman said.

"You will see Arsenal are behind all the other teams. In the last five years all the objective studies that have been made show Arsenal had less rest than any other team in the top four.

"That is facts. It has nothing to do with my opinion. It is an independent company that made (the study) that shows Arsenal had less rest than any other team in the top level."

It is understood the study Wenger was referring to was internal analysis of Arsenal's fixture programme.

It is not be the first time that Mourinho and Wenger have disagreed with each other - in fact it is not the first time this month after the Portuguese said last week that complaining is "normal" for Wenger in light of comments he made about Juan Mata's transfer to Manchester United.

The exchange, though, is nothing to do with mind games, according to the Arsenal boss.

"It is not mind games. It is opinions. But I don't live with opinions, I live with facts. And the facts don't depend on me or Mourinho," he said.

"It is depending on objective analysis. A day is 24 hours. And you count how many times you have rest between games. I did (not) make this study, it was made by an independent company. I cannot influence that."

Regardless of who is right out of the two managers, Wenger knows his men have got a job on to stay in the mix for trophies over the coming weeks.

Arsenal have got some key fixtures coming up, with Sunday's FA Cup fifth-round draw with Liverpool meaning that Arsenal now face the Reds twice in four games, with the others against Manchester United and Bayern Munich.

The Liverpool draw only added another mouthwatering tie to their schedule and Wenger said: "It's an interesting draw and a difficult one. We have a little advantage by playing at home. That means we don't travel but overall it is of course a great difficulty and we'll try again to absorb it and to come out in a positive way."

Those games must wait for February, though, with a clash at Southampton on Tuesday on the immediate agenda.

With Manchester City and Chelsea not playing until Wednesday, Arsenal can open four- and five-point gaps over their title rivals, although that will not be easy against a side Wenger rates highly.

"They are above expected and the quality of their displays has been very good and everybody who goes today to Southampton knows that they will get a difficult game," he said.

"That's why we want to focus on being at our best on Tuesday night because Southampton on our plan is a game where you want to take the points, but you know we need to fight to get them."

Wenger makes the trip south with a doubt over Jack Wilshere's ankle, but he does have Mikel Arteta (calf), Aaron Ramsey (thigh) and Thomas Vermaelen (calf) fit again.

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