‘It is not right. Let’s protect the players’: Arteta blasts schedule after Wolves win

<span>Mikel Arteta said: ‘You cannot have a team that hasn’t played for seven days, or three days before, and has more recovery time’.</span><span>Photograph: Robbie Jay Barratt/AMA/Getty Images</span>
Mikel Arteta said: ‘You cannot have a team that hasn’t played for seven days, or three days before, and has more recovery time’.Photograph: Robbie Jay Barratt/AMA/Getty Images

Mikel Arteta has echoed Pep Guardiola in criticising the fixture schedule that meant Arsenal had to play only 48 hours after flying back from Munich before the 2-0 win over Wolves that allowed his team to reclaim top spot in the Premier League.

Arsenal stayed over in Germany, after Wednesday’s Champions League defeat to Bayern Munich, to help recuperate before their challenging trip to Molineux to face a Wolves side who had a week’s rest since their last game.

Related: Arsenal return to top spot after Trossard and Ødegaard see off Wolves

Goals from Leandro Trossard and Martin Ødegaard allowed Arsenal to recover from successive defeats and capitalise on Manchester City’s involvement in their FA Cup semi-final win over Chelsea, after which their manager also hit out at the congested schedule, to go top.

“It’s not about us, Pep or myself, it’s about the wellbeing of the players,” Arteta said. “When you compete in European competition every team has to compete in the same way. You cannot have a team that hasn’t played for seven days, or three days before, and has more recovery time and then you have to play in the Premier League and the FA Cup.

“It is not right. If you look in any angle it’s not right. If you want to protect, let’s talk about the players and the protagonists. Let’s protect the players and do everything we can to give them the maximum time to help them recover and perform and do the show that they do every week.”

Both City, losing to Real Madrid on penalties, and Arsenal were knocked out of the Champions League on Wednesday but Arteta admitted he had a sleepless night as he attempted to refocus on Wolves and the Premier League title race.

“We stayed in Munich. I think we had an hour or two hours of sleep,” he said of the unusual decision not to fly straight back on the same night.

“Wake up, start to talk about Wolves, then about what the players need, how we’re going to get into the best mental and physical condition to win this game and to beat them.

“The boys were unbelievable, the staff was unbelievable. It’s a joy to work with them. We realised that if you want to be in the big competitions, fighting for the Champions League, fighting for the Premier League and the level that requires, you have to do something special.

“You have to be something special and love to compete and expose yourself when it’s needed to get the outcome that you want. I thought the boys did that really well today.”

Arsenal now face Chelsea, themselves with disappointment to overcome, on Tuesday.

Gary O’Neil pointed out his squad size, and a litany of injuries, meant he had to select from 12 fit senior players. “It was an unbelievable performance,” the Wolves manager said. “Gutsy, worked their socks off, pressed really high, against one of the best teams in world football.”