Midfielder Mikel Arteta cannot understand Arsenal’s hectic schedule – but maintains the players will be out to make a “big statement” with victory at Manchester City in Saturday’s lunchtime kick-off.
Arsene Wenger’s squad have little recovery time following their midweek Champions League 2-0 defeat away to Napoli as they try to get themselves up for the challenge which awaits at the Etihad Stadium.
Arteta, though, is confident the squad will be ready as they look to extend their five-point lead at the top of the Barclays Premier League before then tackling another of their title rivals when Chelsea are at the Emirates Stadium on December 23.
“The mood will be fine, but the recovery time is very tight,” said the Spaniard.
“I don’t understand why we play Sunday afternoon, then in Naples on Wednesday, getting back to London at four o’clock in the morning (on Thursday) and then we are going to play again on Saturday morning in Manchester.
“However, there is not much we can do, so we just have to prepare well and be ready for it because they will be ready for us as they rested several players for their European game on Tuesday night.
“However, there can be no excuses, we have to be ready, we want to win there and have to be prepared.
“We know it can be a big statement if we get a good result there, so that is what we want.”
Arsenal needed only a point against Napoli to be sure of top spot in Group F and with it seeding for the knockout stage.
However, after their loss at the Stadio San Paolo – where midfielder Arteta had been sent off in the second half – coupled with a late winner for Dortmund in Marseille, Wenger’s men are now likely to face one of Real Madrid, Paris St Germain, Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid or Barcelona when the draw is made on Monday in Nyon, Switzerland.
Arteta, though, feels Arsenal will present testing opposition for any of the seeded sides.
“You are looking at the top teams who have won their group, so it is tough, but let’s see what happens,” he said.
“I am sure, though, that they will not be happy to play against us as well.
“On our day, we have shown that we can compete with any team in Europe, but you are making it tougher for yourself (by finishing second).”
Arteta labelled his sending off in Naples – where he was shown two yellow cards in the second half by Hungarian referee Viktor Kassai – as a “joke”.
He said: “With the second one, he is on the floor before I got there, so I am very disappointed.
“They made 20 fouls in the first half, and then I made two in the whole game.
“I thought it was very harsh and unfair.”
England forward Theo Walcott could be in contention to start against City, while full-back Bacary Sagna may also be fit following his hamstring problem.
German forward Lukas Podolski, meanwhile, stayed in London this week to step up his rehabilitation after a torn hamstring sidelined him since the second leg of the Champions League qualifier against Fenerbahce in late August.