London (AFP) – Unai Emery admits Arsenal will struggle to cope with a draining schedule that sees them host Leicester at the start of three games in seven days.
Emery’s side will be pushed to the limit by the television schedulers, who moved their Premier League clash with the Foxes to Monday 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 were due to face Loures on Saturday night, giving them more time to recover before hosting 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 very high demand for us,” he 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.
“You can’t do that with play and rest, play and we can’t do that without changing players. But if I decide to play with the same players Monday, Thursday, Sunday, the players can’t do that.
“We want to play a lot of matches. We want to continue doing 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 their chances of extending that run past the coming week will be severely tested.
Emery acknowledges the television rights holders can determine when his team play, but he wishes they showed more common sense.
– ‘Not an excuse’ –
“We are first in one competition (the Premier League) and the TV is very important,” he said.
“The TV has the target to choose the matches Friday, Sunday, Monday. If they decided we are going to play Monday we don’t stop to think if it is better to play Monday or not.
“I prefer to play Saturday or Sunday. It (playing on Monday) has the advantage for more time to prepare the match – that’s one positive.
“After, we are going to play Thursday, we are going to play Sunday also, two matches very quickly after Leicester. For me it’s not an excuse because we are preparing for Monday.”
Meanwhile, Leicester manager Claude Puel insists he always knew Arsenal striker Alexandre Lacazette would come good.