Another row over international football is brewing at Arsenal.
Arsène Wenger spent much of last season questioning Jack Wilshere's planned participation in the European Under-21 Championship, and yesterday he said that the coinciding of the European Championship and the Olympic Games next summer "makes life impossible" for clubs and players.
The advent of a football Team GB in the Olympics, immediately following Euro 2012, raises the prospect of players being asked to operate all summer. Wenger is aghast at the idea of something he considers to be "not a real football tournament" taking place in late July and early August, interfering with pre-season.
"Why not organise another tournament behind that [the Olympics] and we lose them again?" he asked ironically yesterday. "The whole summer ... makes life impossible for the clubs and the players especially. At some stage you have to decide how far you can go medically for the players to play so much games under so much pressure."
Wenger's irritation is all the deeper as he does not consider the Olympics to be worthy of the involvement of his players. "The Olympic tournament for me is not a real football tournament, for me the Olympics is for track and field basically," he said. "If I asked you who won the Olympics 20 years ago you would have problems to tell me."
The European Championship runs from 8 June to 1 July, the football at the Olympics from 25 July to 11 August. Wenger said that it would be "impossible" to use anyone soon after playing in both, but also that the decision on participating in the Olympics should not be left to them: "The worst thing is to leave that decision to the players." He is also surprised that veterans such as David Beckham are seen as candidates: "Before, it was an under-23 tournament. Now for England it looks as well to be an over-35 tournament!"
While Wenger was clear that he did not want players involved in both tournaments, he was open to negotiation for those who were not involved in Poland and Ukraine."We have to find a common-sense solution to the use of the players," he said. Aaron Ramsey is likely to be called upon by Stuart Pearce, as Wales did not qualify for the European Championship, and regarding the 20-year-old midfielder Wenger said he hoped for compromise: "We'll have to analyse every case separately with the people who are responsible for the Olympic tournament. Let's hope we can do that."
Arsenal host Stoke tomorrow, and Wenger admitted he is troubled by his continued use of Robin van Persie. "On Monday I decide always to rest him and on Friday I play him again," he said. The Arsenal captain has scored 30 goals in his last 38 games, and Wenger described him as the best all-round striker in the Premier League. "You like Robin because he's not a typical goal-scorer. When you see him play it never comes to your mind that this guy is a goalscorer. And then you look at the record and think he's not only a good player, he's as well a top-class scorer."
Van Persie became captain after Cesc Fabregas's exit in the summer, and Wenger believes this has rounded off his maturing as a player. "He has made a big improvement on the mental side since he arrived. And I think the final step was the armband. He had a history of being a bit temperamental. But he is a guy who takes things on board."
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