Arsenal vs Crystal Palace: 'World Cup has hurt our preparation for the new Premier League season,' says Arsene Wenger

Arsenal face managerless Crystal Palace on Saturday

Arsène Wenger, the Arsenal manager, has blamed the World Cup for the fact that many of his players will not be ready to start their season, which gets under way today at home to managerless Crystal Palace.

“We are short in our preparation,” he said. “We had 11 players at the World Cup, many of them had longer holidays after that. I think that this year, the final of the World Cup was on the 13 July. The start of the Premier League season is 16 August. If you want to give some holiday to the players, your preparation becomes very short. We could have done with one week later, with all the competitions. Championship and Premier League.”

Wenger confirmed the three Arsenal players in Germany’s World Cup-winning squad – Per Mertesacker, who yesterday retired from international football, Mesut Özil and Lukas Podolski – would not be ready until the match with Everton next Saturday, which means they also miss the Champions League qualifier with Besiktas in Turkey on Tuesday, even though other teams have recalled their World Cup stars earlier. “Look, for example you have [Brazil’s] Thiago Silva and David Luiz who came back a bit earlier and played straight away [for Paris Saint-Germain]. Thiago Silva is out for a month, David Luiz is injured as well. If you don’t give players enough holiday and play them straight away then they get injured.”

 

Wenger admitted that Arsenal are still not strong enough in defence, and has concerns over whether centre-half Laurent Koscielny will be able to start both against Palace today and again on Tuesday night in Istanbul. “We hope he will be able to,” he said. “We hope.” If not, and with Mertesacker still not ready, that will leave Wenger in considerable difficulty. He is still trying to find another central defender before the transfer window closes in two weeks’ time.

“A lot can happen until the 31 August,” Wenger added. “I have always said it would be better if the transfer window closed before the season. If we can find [another defender], we will do it.”

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