Unai Emery won’t join calls on Premier League to ease fixture congestion

Unai Emery insists he has respect for the Premier League after the Arsenal head coach refused to join some of his counterparts in questioning whether more could be done to help English clubs in Europe.

The Gunners face Rennes in the first leg of their Europa League round of 16 tie, with the game at Roazhon Park sandwiched between key Premier League fixtures against top-four rivals Tottenham and Manchester United.

Both Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino and Chelsea’s Maurizio Sarri have called on the league to do more for English clubs playing in Europe to help ease some of the fixture congestion.

While Arsenal were playing out a battling 1-1 draw against fierce rivals Tottenham on Saturday, Ligue 1 gave Rennes a free weekend to prepare by postponing their game against Nimes.

But Emery insists congestion – and the potential fatigue suffered by his players – cannot be used as a reason for any poor performances from Arsenal.

“It is not an excuse for us, we have the habit to play a lot of matches week by week,” he said.

“We played on Saturday, rested Sunday and started to work on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and tomorrow I think we are going to be okay to play every player. For us, it is a very important match.

“I respect them, the Premier League they decide the schedules for our matches and we adapted.

“Our adaptation is to prepare for the matches on the days we can have but, above all, our habit is to play a lot of matches during the week, so it is no excuse.

Alexandre Lacazette is banned as Arsenal take on Rennes
Alexandre Lacazette is banned as Arsenal take on Rennes (Nick Potts/PA)

“You ask me if I prefer sometimes more time to prepare for one match then yes, but for example, in this match, we don’t have an excuse.

“We had time to prepare for this match well, maybe we are going to play after on Sunday but we have this habit and we have the players to share and find combinations with the players who can play tomorrow with a big performance, fresh players with a big energy.

“Then also on Sunday with some of the same players who play tomorrow and other fresh players can come in and get the best performance in two matches.”

Arsenal will be without striker Alexandre Lacazette as he serves the second game of a three-match ban following his red card against BATE Borisov in the last round, meaning Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is likely to lead the line despite his last-gasp penalty miss in Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Tottenham.