After Sunday’s clash at West Ham, the Arsenal squad will disperse for a couple of weeks as the Interlull kicks in.
Thanks to Covid-19 travel restrictions and the fact many countries are due to play three games in 10 days, it’s shaping up to be a very complicated period for clubs and players alike.
While the Arsenal medical team have done a fantastic job keeping the majority of the first team on the pitch despite a stunted pre-season, Mikel Arteta is worried about the strain being placed on his players and thinks the upcoming break completely ignores their welfare.
“I think it’s a bit too much in general, in a normal year,” he said on Wednesday. “This year, I think it becomes something really dangerous. The amount of minutes these boys have played in such a short time with no preparation, I don’t think it’s right.
“We’re not going to change it. The decisions have been made, the games are going to be played so it’s just about how we protect our players in the best possible way.”
With more than 35 countries on the UK government’s travel ‘red list’, Arteta confirmed that the Gunners will ask that players are not selected for fixtures that could force them into a mandatory 10-day quarantine on their return.
“The ones that are going to be in red zone countries obviously won’t be able to play those games or those fixtures,” he said.
“The rest, we have to allow them to go if they are fit and we will stick to the protocols and all the guidance that we have to let our players go when they are safe.
He added: “We have a few where they might be able to play one game and not the next game. There’s a lot still to figure out. The doctor is in constant communication with the Premier League and the federations but it’s not too simple.”
At the tail-end of last year, Arteta was less than impressed that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had to spend a night sleeping on an airport floor after Gabon had a diplomatic falling out with opponents Gambia. Naturally, he doesn’t want a repeat nor does he want the physical routine of his players being completely knocked off-kilter.
“I only want to trust them,” he said when asked about handing over his players to other medical departments.
“We will communicate with them, tell them the state of our players and try to maintain an open discussion to try to manage their loads in the best possible way and not change too much the things they are used to doing.”