Wenger backs Benitez over United 'advantage' claims
Saturday 24 January 2009
Arsene Wenger has backed Rafael Benitez by saying the fixture list is "unexplainably advantaged" towards Manchester United. Although the Arsenal manager's claims do not amount to the same kind of outburst made by Benitez two weeks ago, he does reiterate the Spaniard's concerns that there is a favouritism towards the Premier League champions in the way games are arranged.
"I feel that next week Benitez has a case if you look at the way the fixtures are arranged," said Wenger. "You can say that Manchester United have been extremely advantaged, unexplainably advantaged.
"But that is what we have to cope with. It's difficult to explain why one team plays on Tuesday and the others are all on Wednesday. It is unfair competition. Next week the fixtures are advantaged for Manchester United, who before had a point against Liverpool – I supported them when they had a case. But this week, I think Benitez has a case. I do not think you need to be a specialist in football to understand that in this case it's an unfair advantage for Manchester United. Will it have an advantage on the global season? I don't know, you would have to analyse that better. It is not Manchester United's fault, it is not Liverpool's fault. It's the organisers of the fixtures. They have a case to explain."
Wenger's argument is that United play on Tuesday, away to West Brom, and then not again until the following Monday, when they host Everton. Arsenal have to visit Everton on Wednesday before facing West Ham at home on Saturday, giving them less time to recover. Liverpool, of course, play Everton in the FA Cup tomorrow before travelling to Wigan Athletic on Wednesday and then playing Chelsea on Sunday.
By Wenger's reasoning it would appear that Everton manager David Moyes has the most to complain about but it is a sign of the sensitivity surrounding United, who have assumed top spot in the league, ahead of Liverpool on goal difference having played a game less, and six points clear of Arsenal, that he has decided to follow Benitez's lead in claiming there has been – deliberate or otherwise – a bias.
Arsenal's protracted pursuit of Andrei Arshavin continued yesterday with the board of Zenit St Petersburg meeting once more to discuss their latest offer. Arsenal are proposing a deal which could amount to £15m for the 28-year-old once add-ons and incentives are included, with a basic £10m paid up front.
They have become increasingly frustrated by Zenit's tactics, given the player is clearly for sale and also because they have been the only serious bidder for Arshavin for some time. Arsenal director Ken Friar has been in St Petersburg to conclude a deal with the club having set a deadline of Monday before moving on to other targets.
However the signs are clear that Zenit, who have, so far, unsuccessfully attempted to drum up interest in their prize asset from other clubs, want to conclude the transfer with Arsenal and are now haggling over the payment structure.
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