English football at Christmas is NOT ‘evil’: Arsene Wenger in London Colney

Aaron Ramsey

Aaron Ramsey - Credit: Archant

Arsenal’s boss tells reporters ahead of tomorrow’s Everton clash that he would ‘cry’ if the tradition was stopped.

Arsenal training ground

Arsenal training ground - Credit: Archant

Louis van Gaal’s gripe about English football continuing over the Christmas season being an ‘evil’ part of this country’s culture have been dismissed by Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger.

At today’s (Friday) press conference at the Gunners’ training grounds in London Colney, Wenger was asked for his opinion on his Manchester United counterpart’s calls for a change as Premier League players are “exhausted at the end of the season”.

But Wenger said: “I have a lot of respect for Louis van Gaal, but I don’t agree with him on that.

“Maybe because I’m such a long time in England, I had his ideas maybe when I arrived here, but today I would cry if you change that because it is part of English tradition, and English football. And on Boxing Day, to suppress that game, the whole of Europe comes to England to watch the game, and I think as well it is an important part of us being popular in the world, at Christmas nobody works in the world and everybody watches [football].

“I want to go on with it. I always pleaded maybe for a break after the first of January, but we have to keep this tradition alive.”

Quizzed on his tactics for players’ rotation for tomorrow’s game against Everton, given that Arsenal played against Bayern Munich on Tuesday (20), Wenger replied that: “I’m not sure about the need to rotate. We have a medical meeting this morning, and recovery test to see how everybody has recovered. It is always difficult to speculate on players who might be tired.

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“I don’t think we have a fatigue problem.”

As for the impact of any ‘feel-good factor’ following Tuesday’s 2-0 win, Wenger quipped: “I will surprise you, we always have a feel-good factor inside our club, unless the results aren’t there, but there is always togetherness.

“We are on a good run and that can help our confidence.”

Talking about the impending match against Everton, he added: “We have a big game in front of us, against Everton, where we can extend our run. Our focus is mainly on our next game.

“If you want to play at the top of the Premier League, you have to do well at home, in the big games; Everton is a big game at home.

“By being consistent, you gain credibility. Our consistency, which has been questioned by many people is not based on mathematics and statistics – it’s down to us to change people’s minds.”

He said that, in injury news, Aaron Ramsey, “after the international break, has a chance to be back”.

The midfielder is currently out after having a scan on his hamstring injury yesterday (Thursday) – when Wenger said that the fact that he played against Andorra “certainly cost Bale and him as well”.

He anticipated that it would be a “three-to-four-weeks job” for Ramsey.

Wenger said the only other player suffering a recent injury is Mikel Arteta.

He said: “We lost Arteta yesterday unfortunately for Saturday.”

Reflecting more on Ramsey, the Gunners boss said he should have, in hindsight, rested him against Watford, a choice he now ‘regrets’, but ‘realistically’ he could have rested against Andorra.

Wenger said that ideally Ramsey should have had a breather.

However, he said, injuries were down on previous seasons as there had been changes behind the scenes.

Wenger explained: “We do little things differently, that make us a bit better; we have more individual care of players as well, but it’s touch wood as we have just lost Ramsey, and we lost Arteta yesterday.”

• Arsenal V Everton, Barclays Premier League, Saturday October 24, 5.30pm