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Football: Wenger hits back at Mourinho in fixture row

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger insisted Monday his team were not favoured by the fixture programme following comments from Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho the Gunners had a certain "influence" over the schedule.

LONDON: Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger insisted Monday his team were not favoured by the fixture programme following comments from Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho the Gunners had a certain "influence" over the schedule.

"It is simple - look at the fixtures and analyse it. I trust you will give an objective view," Wenger said.

"You will see Arsenal are behind all the other teams. In the last five years all the objective studies that have been made show Arsenal had less rest than any other team in the top four," the Frenchman added.

"That is fact. It has nothing to do with my opinion. It is an independent company that made (the study) that shows Arsenal had less rest than any other team in the top level."

Wenger's comments came after reports Arsenal had commissioned their own internal analysis of their fixture schedule.

The Gunners boss cited a hectic pre-Christmas programme when they played Manchester City on a Saturday lunchtime following a mid-week Champions League trip to Napoli, both of which saw Arsenal beaten.

Mourinho's remarks about Arsenal's fixtures came after Wenger criticised Chelsea's decision to sell Juan Mata to Manchester United during the January transfer window.

Arsenal are currently top of the Premier League, two points ahead of third-placed Chelsea with Manchester City in between them.

But Wenger, speaking ahead of Arsenal's trip to Southampton on Tuesday, was adamant his dispute with Mourinho was not part of any deliberate attempt to unsettle the Portuguese manager.

"It is not mind games. It is opinions," Wenger said.

"But I don't live with opinions, I live with facts. and the facts don't depend on me or Mourinho.

"It is depending on objective analysis. A day is 24 hours and you count how many times you have rest between games.

"I didn't make the study, it was made by an independent company. I cannot influence that."

Fixture congestion is likely to become an issue again when Arsenal play Premier League rivals Liverpool in the FA Cup on the weekend of February 15-16.

The tie will come just days before Arsenal's Champions League last 16 first-leg clash with Bayern Munich at the Emirates Stadium and shortly after key Premier League games against both Liverpool away and Manchester United at home.

"It is an interesting (FA Cup) draw and a difficult one; we have a little advantage by playing at home," said Wenger, whose side are looking to win their first major trophy since 2005.

"Overall it's a great difficulty and we will try and absorb it and come out in a positive way.

"(There are) plenty of big games. It means the squad will need to be highly focused, (it is) a massive challenge and we are confident we can do that."

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