MIKEL ARTETA is worried top players are “cracking and cracking” due to the intense strain of the football calendar.
And he expects the standard of football to drop in England unless there is a change in the scheduling.
Arteta’s Arsenal travel to Portsmouth on Monday night for their FA Cup fifth-round clash at Fratton Park.
It is the Gunners’ 40th competitive match of the season and 12th of 2020 – despite a two-week gap in February due to the inaugural Premier League winter break.
Despite winning the competition for the third year on the bounce, Pep Guardiola has previously stated he thinks the Carabao Cup should be scrapped to reduce the workload on English sides – especially those challenging in Europe.
And although former Manchester City assistant Arteta did not explicitly agree the tournament should be axed, he did confirm he wants to see alterations made to make the players – and therefore the quality – more sustainable.
The Arsenal boss suggested the possibility of bigger squads in the Premier League and more players allowed on the bench than the current total of seven.
He said: “I think there are a lot of ways around it. We’re not going to please everyone with the decisions that have to be made.
“What is for sure is that, for players, it’s an enormous amount of games. The intensity is raising every single year, the level of pressure too, and sometimes it’s too much for them.
“If [there is no change], we have to be allowed to have 26 or 28 squad players, which we are not allowed to do, and even more players on the bench.
“But something has to be done, because you can see players are cracking and cracking every season.
“You can sustain that for one season, two seasons, but after three or four seasons you end up paying the price and I think the quality at some stage will drop.
“But we have a history, a massive culture, here with the cup games and to go against that is difficult.”
Even if Arsenal suffer a shock defeat at Pompey, they would play a total of 50 matches this season – although with three further rounds in the FA Cup that could of course be more.
Their early exit from the Europa League at the hands of Olympiacos last week ensured they will play seven fewer matches in that competition than last term, when then reached the final in Baku.
As things stand, with Arsenal tenth in the table, there would be no European football for the Gunners in 2020/21, which could be a blessing in disguise.
Some star players would be linked with moves away in search of Champions League football but it could help the rest of the squad battle on the three domestic fronts more effectively.
Arteta added: “It’s been nonstop but I think this club has to play four competitions every year, that’s the demands.”