The Gunners boss blasted the Premier League for forcing his side to play the early kick-off on Saturday after facing Liverpool on Wednesday night
For once, Mikel Arteta let his cool demeanour slip.
Arsenal’s manager had been his usual calm self when he sat in front of the press to dissect Wednesday night’s 2-0 defeat against Liverpool at the Emirates.
However, when the questioning turned to the short turnaround facing his players before Arsenal’s visit to Aston Villa on Saturday lunchtime, Arteta’s anger suddenly bubbled over.
“Thank you so much to the Premier League for doing that,” he barked as he thumped the desk in front of him.
“And they’ve done it again when we have to play Chelsea and Manchester United [in April].
“So, if they want to give them any advantage, I say to them: ‘Thank you so much for doing that.”
Arteta’s outburst took everyone by surprise.
The short turnaround will give him very little time to work with his players, with the squad due to travel up to the Midlands on Friday having had a recovery day on Thursday.
For a manager like Arteta, who puts so much value in training-ground preparation, that his an unacceptable situation.
“It is not fair what they have done,” he said. “Don’t worry, the players, they will be there on Saturday, with energy.
“They will eat, sleep well, but thank you so much to the Premier League for putting the fixtures like this.
“I heard some comments about me saying Oh wait, when you are in Europe, it’s nothing new.
“But I’m complaining [about] the Premier League and how we schedule the games in the Premier League.
“When you are in Europe and you have Premier League, it’s a different story. What I am comparing is the Premier League and it’s very different.”
Arsenal’s game against Villa will be their third in the space of just six days.
The Gunners beat Leicester 2-0 last Sunday before their run of five successive Premier League victories was halted by Liverpool.
The trip to Villa Park will bring an end to their gruelling spell, with the players then due to head off with their national teams for the international break.
Given the crucial stage of the season and what is at stake for Arsenal, it is understandable why Arteta has been irked by the situation.
And his complaints are not really over the actual fixtures, they are over the lack of suitable recovery time his players will get, something that he and medical staff believe will increase the risk of injuries.
“The first thing is to protect the players and we mention that many times,” he clarified during his press conference on Friday morning.
“Can we please avoid Wednesday night and Saturday morning with travelling and other things?
“I understand that they have commitments and TV. If you do it once, OK. But don’t do it twice.
“We still have the Spurs fixture [to find a date for]. Are we going to do it for a third time?”
Arteta’s complaints clearly have merit. But nonetheless, he will be getting very little sympathy from a lot of his peers.
“I only want Arteta to remember the game between Tottenham and Arsenal that was postponed [at Arsenals request],” an angry Antonio Conte said when asked about the Arsenal managers outburst.
“I dont forget this. I don’t want to speak about fair or unfair.”
Three games in six days is far from ideal, but Arsenal have had things easier than a lot of other teams this season due to the fact they have not had any European football to worry about.
Manchester United have had the Champions League, West Ham have had the Europa League and Tottenham were in the Conference League before they were kicked out of the competition by UEFA.
All of those sides have played more games than the Gunners.
United have totalled 40 in all competitions, West Ham 43 and Spurs 44. Arsenal, meanwhile, have played just 34 and have not had to deal with multiple overseas trips and the issues they bring.
That does not excuse being forced to play the lunchtime kick-off on Saturday having kicked-off against Liverpool at 8.15pm on Wednesday night and it is a situation that could have been easily avoided by the Premier League and the TV companies.
But sometimes it is best to keep your feelings to yourself.
Arsenal took on Liverpool just under two months after the two teams had met in the second leg of the Carabao Cup semi-final on January 20.
It was the Gunners’ seventh game in that time period. Meanwhile, Liverpool had played 13.
So, while there is certainly some merit in Arteta’s frustration, it must be noted that others have been coping with far more demanding schedules.
And if Arsenal do go on to secure European football next season, they will have to adjust to playing games with far more regularity than they have during the past 12 months.
“I think we had six games more than Arsenal [since the Carabao Cup semi-final],” Klopp said on Wednesday night. “Thirteen and seven if I am right.
“Thirteen games is really mad and it will not stop. I don’t complain, we don’t complain, it’s just how it is.
“We constantly travel, we go here, we go there. We wake up in a different hotel and somebody tells you where the restaurant is and you try to remember the number of your room – that’s our life at the moment.”
Arteta is a very smart man. He would have known he was going to raise the issue of the future scheduling before he walked into Wednesday night’s press conference.
And there is no doubt that he has a point.
There is no justifiable reason why a team playing a Premier League fixture on the Wednesday night should then be picked as the lunchtime kick-off on the Saturday.
It’s a situation that is easily avoidable. But this isn’t the first time it has happened and it won’t be the last.