Why one extra match could cost Arsenal the Premiership title

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger will now have to manage his squad very carefully.Jonathan Tehoue’s dramatic late equaliser for Leyton Orient against Arsenal at Brisbane Road meant the old cliché ‘the magic of the FA Cup’ was in full use yesterday. It means that the two sides will meet again in nine days time at the Emirates and for Leyton Orient; it will be another memorable day for the club. However, for Arsenal the fixture list continues to pile up.

After the game, Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger conceded that the replay was exactly what his side didn’t need. The Frenchman said, “The most negative side of our result today is one more fixture and in fairness that is not what we needed. We have had problems in the cups against teams from the lower divisions to finish them off, but also we have given a lot. Sometimes, mentally, a breather would not be bad.”

The replay at the Emirates means that Arsenal now have a gruelling fixture list of five games in fourteen days. The Gunners are still in all four competitions, but the next two weeks could define their season as they play matches in all four fronts. The Gunners host Stoke on Wednesday before playing Birmingham in the Carling Cup final on Sunday. Then they have the replay against Orient on 2nd March before a league game at the Emirates against Sunderland on 5 March. Three days later they head to the Nou Camp to face Barcelona in the second leg of the First Knockout round tie in the Champions League.

Arsenal have already played 42 times this season and Wenger was quick to point this out after the Orient game. He said “What people forget is that since the beginning of December, we have played every three days, so sometimes to have a week where we could give the players a little breather would not be bad.”

Having played so many games already and facing a congested fixture list, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Arsenal’s Premier League form dips. In the next two weeks, Wenger has no option but to rotate his squad and any slip ups against Stoke and Sunderland could lead to the title beginning to slip away. The tie against Sunderland comes just three days prior to the Barcelona game and Wenger will surely have to rest his ‘big guns’ for it. However Sunderland are more than capable of taking all three points at the Emirates so you begin to see the dilemma that Wenger was already facing before Orient forced a replay.

Make no mistake about it; the match for Arsenal comes as nothing but an inconvenience. However, try telling Leyton Orient that!

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