Arsenal reject Vieira demand for time off

Steve Tongue@stevetongue
Tuesday 31 December 2013 02:26
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A demand by Arsenal's captain Patrick Vieira for time off because he claims to be "burned out" five weeks into the new season has fallen on deaf ears. The champions' manager, Arsène Wenger, is not prepared to leave him out of tomorrow's local derby at Charlton, though the Football Association will provide an enforced rest next weekend, in the form of a one-match ban following a recent red card at Chelsea, which could become four matches if Vieira is found guilty of swearing at the referee. He will be suspended for next Saturday's home game with Bolton.

"Patrick played in Cyprus on Saturday night, and after the game against Manchester City on Tuesday night he was very tired," Wenger said. "I looked at the statistics for Tuesday's game and, physically, Patrick was outstanding. He pushed himself very hard and that explains why he was so tired. But I have no plans to rest him. I believe that he is in different physical shape now and he will be ready for Saturday's game."

What concerns the player, however, is the onset of the demanding Champions' League programme, with Arsenal meeting Borussia Dortmund, PSV Eindhoven and Auxerre in successive weeks, starting next Tuesday. That is followed by two French internationals before the Champions' League immediately resumes again.

"I'm not tired, I'm burned out," Vieira said in an interview with the French daily sports paper L'Equipe. "I can hardly stand. My back aches, my legs hurt, it hurts all over. This time I really need a breather. I'm going to see Arsène. He must give me time off to relax. I don't know how or when but it must come quickly because the Champions' League is coming and there are soon two tiring games in succession for France."

The midfielder holds a remarkable record of 42 successive international appearances. After two years' of friendly matches in the build-up to the World Cup, where fatigue was partially blamed for their flop, France now face the renewed pressure of a qualifying campaign for Euro 2004, which began with an edgy 2-1 victory over Cyprus.

After they won the 1998 World Cup and then Euro 2000, there were suggestions that their players took a long time to settle in at the start of the new season and some claimed to be feeling weary. This time, an early exit from the World Cup gave Vieira and his club-mates Thierry Henry and Sylvain Wiltord four or five weeks' rest before pre-season training. He believes it was not enough and is having an effect on his form: "I know pretty well that I'm not good right now. I can see my performances are up and down," he told L'Equipe.

Last season Vieira totalled 54 club games as Arsenal won the domestic Double, plus 12 internationals. Over the last three years he has played 37 European club games. But not everyone feels that is too demanding a programme. Frank McLintock, who was Arsenal's captain in 63 matches when they did the Double in 1971, said yesterday: "To think he's tired after five [League] games is astonishing. We often played 55 to 65 games a season, on much worse pitches."

As a club, Arsenal remain opposed to a winter break and to cutting back the lucrative Champions' League. From next season, the second stage of it will be a straight knockout competition, reducing the maximum number of matches from 17 to 13. The Football Association and England's head coach Sven Goran Eriksson both want a two-week break immediately after Christmas each year, but the most recent meeting of Premiership clubs voted unanimously against the idea.

Shortly after France were knocked out of the World Cup, the world game's governing body, Fifa, said it would investigate the number of serious injuries among leading players to see whether burn-out was to blame. Another French midfielder, Robert Pires, missed the World Cup after injuring a cruciate ligament when playing for Arsenal in his 49th game of the season. He will not return for at least another month. But there is better news of Fredrik Ljungberg, who injured a hip during Sweden's World Cup campaign. He came through a reserve game on Wednesday and could be back in the first-team on Saturday week – just as Vieira temporarily steps down.

Vieira's schedule matches since August 2001

2001

Aug 1 international

3 league

Sep 2 international

3 league

3 European club

Oct 3 league

2 European club

Nov 1 international

3 league

1 European club

Dec 6 league

1 European club

2002

Jan 4 league

2 FA Cup

Feb 1 international

3 league

2 European club

1 FA Cup

Mar 1 international

4 league

2 European club

2 FA Cup

Apr 1 international

5 League

1 FA Cup

May 3 international

2 league

1 FA Cup

June 2 international

TOTAL (2001-02 season) 66

Aug 1 Community Shield

3 league

Sep 1 international

2 league

TOTAL (since Aug 2001) 73

Vieira has not missed a game in any competitions for Arsenal and France since 23 December 2001

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