Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 July 2014

Friendly fire from Wenger

Arsene Wenger

Arsene Wenger has hit out at the international friendly schedule and revealed Arsenal are considering lodging an official complaint against the Belgian association after the Gunners boss claimed they "forced" injured defender Thomas Vermaelen to play a full match in midweek.

The Gunners head to Liverpool on Saturday for what is a key clash in their quest to maintain a top-four place in the Barclays Premier League, having thrashed arch-rivals Tottenham 5-2 last weekend.

Like most Premier League clubs, Arsenal's squad have jetted around the globe during the latest round of international friendlies, but Wenger was left seething at the use of Vermaelen for their game in Greece, and said: "It looks like Belgium has made a decision which I still do not understand and we will look to see if we can put a complaint in."

He added: "Firstly they forced the player to travel, then they forced him to play 90 minutes after being injured and had a centre-back on the bench who did not play at all, in a friendly game knowing they do not even go to the European Championship. For me, that is difficult to understand."

Wenger continued: "The friendlies are becoming more and more difficult to accept for everybody.

"I was always in favour of using the players for official games and I never asked any player not to go 100 per cent for his country when it is a qualifier or a big competition, but the friendlies are becoming more and more difficult, especially in this period."

Arsenal played Spurs at Sunday lunchtime, and will host AC Milan for the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie on Tuesday night, which is all but over following a 4-0 defeat in Italy a fortnight ago.

Wenger believes such a schedule makes it "impossible" to get the best out of players for both club and country, and said: "For us it is vital we do not lose the players now. If you go into a period like that with players already touched (by injury) you have more chances to lose the players.

"We are the only team in the world who had that schedule so it is very difficult to understand that our players had to go injured to Greece and play 90 minutes for Belgium. That's frankly not defendable.

"It is disrespectful to the players as well as me."