Arsène Wenger says that this week’s matches against FC Köln and Chelsea are the perfect opportunity to show the Gunners can cope with Europa League football this season.
Arsenal play Köln at the Emirates on Thursday, then Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, which doesn’t seem like much of a rest for the Gunners, in my opinion. However, Wenger points out that this isn’t the first time Arsenal have had to deal with this kind of fixture congestion thanks to European competition, reports the Daily Star.
“It is a good opportunity to show we can cope. We played on Wednesday night in Barcelona and against Everton on Saturday morning. It is a preconceived idea, football is down to how you perform on the day. Three days is plenty of time to recover. Wednesday or Thursday night is no problem. Wednesday/Saturday is similar. It’s just a different competition,” he said.
Of course, if Arsenal go to Stamford Bridge and get battered then people will invariably ask the question again more strongly on Sunday, I feel. As Wenger says, it’s a good opportunity to show that the Gunners can cope, but I fear it’s also a good opportunity for critics to jump on them if they can’t.
In my opinion, a large part of how ready Arsenal will be for Sunday will stem from the team selection on Thursday and how much the team has to fight for a result. Heavy rotation and a strong start will mean players on the bench who needed rests can have rests.
Failing to rotate and going behind to Koln will mean key players could be fatigued for Sunday. After Chelsea won 6-0 in Tuesday’s Champions League opener to Qarabag, the pressure is now on Arsenal.