12 December 2013

Mikel Arteta speaks out on the fixture-clutter...

When the fixtures were first announced, we knew we would face a tough stretch in December with six Prem matches in the month, including three against likely title contenders Man City, Chelsea, and Everton. Add in surprising Newcastle and the Champions League's final match of the group-stage and you've got a tightly-wound knot, to be sure.

Speaking after the Napoli match, Arteta had this to say:
The recovery time is very tight. I don’t understand why we play Sunday afternoon, Wednesday evening, get back at 4am and then play again on Saturday morning in Manchester. There is nothing we can do—just recover well. It’s a big game, and we want to win it. The preparation will just be about recovery. It’s not ideal. There is a late warm-down; we try to get our legs back for Friday…travel on Friday and be as well prepared as we can because they will be ready for us. [Man City] rested seven or eight players in Munich. I think we have different options. You could see that we changed the team a bit again against Napoli. We have to be ready, no excuses. We know it can be a big statement if we get a good result against City. That’s what we want.We are looking at top teams who have won their groups easily, so it's a tough time.
He has a point. On one hand, it's a bit much to suggest that there's an anti-Arsenal conspiracy at work. On the other, the FA saw fit to pit us against us two clubs that it should have foreseen as title-contenders in back-to-back weeks coming on the heels of the last leg of the Champions League group-stage. Sure, it would have been convenient of us to have sewn up the group earlier, but what is one to do when handed a group of death? While we had to fight tooth and nail to earn 12 points, City finished in second place with 15—because Viktoria Plzen and CSKA Moscow could only manage three points each. Chelsea won its group with 12 points in part because FC Basel scrounged up eight points and Steaua could only grasp three.

I'm not griping. This is how things turn out from time to time, and it will be interesting to see how we respond. To this point, we've shown remarkable resilience and resourcefulness despite how bare the cupboard has been lain by injuries. As congested as the schedule is looking forward, fresh legs are available. Theo is back, if not fully fit, and Podolski could make an appearance as early as this Saturday's match against Man City.

In other words, Arteta has it right when he points out that our schedule doesn't favor us. However, it looks like we have a few resources available to deal with that. We managed to advance in the Champions League and will find out Monday who we'll face. Saturday's trip to the Etihad will be tense; City has been fierce at home, to say the least. It would be great to get a positive result on Saturday, no doubt about that. I'd be thrilled with a draw, to be honest.

We'll take a closer look at Saturday's clash in a separate post. Despite Wednesday's defeat, I still feel like we can take on anyone, home or away, and give as good as we get. I won't go so far as to predict victory on Saturday, but this club does have a habit of responding well to losses. I'll leave it at that.