Liverpool and Chelsea have an advantage in the title race because they are not playing in Europe this season, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said after Sunday’s draw with Tottenham Hotspur denied them top spot.
Arsenal could have entered the international break leading the Premier League but after going in front against their north London rivals they ran out of steam and drew 1-1.
A rampant Chelsea thrashed Everton 5-0 on Saturday to go top with 25 points and Liverpool responded with an equally emphatic 6-1 victory over Watford later on Sunday to move above them with 26 points from 11 games.
“It’s a bit easier to prepare for the games because you don’t have the intensity of the Champions League games,” Wenger, whose side have 24 points, told reporters when whether Liverpool and Chelsea had an advantage.
“But if you asked them both they would like to be in there so you can’t complain about it. “It’s a physical advantage for sure, especially after the European weeks. But we have to live with that and it’s not an excuse. It’s very tight after 11 games.”
Arsenal are still unbeaten in all competitions since an opening day defeat by Liverpool, but Wenger said his side had struggled physically against a Tottenham side who began and finished the derby stronger.
“We were a bit too stretched and our level dropped,” Wenger said. “When we were questioned physically in the final 30 minutes we were not good enough to win the game.”
His opposite number Mauricio Pochettino, whose side are also juggling the Champions League with domestic action, was the happier manager after the returning Harry Kane’s penalty cancelled out Kevin Wimmer’s first-half own goal.
Tottenham are still unbeaten in the Premier League but have drawn four in a row to fall five points off the pace.
“We showed that we could be flexible today,” Pochettino, who switched to a back three of Eric Dier, Wimmer and Jan Vertonghen, told reporters.
“All teams have good and bad moments in the season, we have had some bad moments but are still unbeaten (in the Premier League) so I can only smile about that,” he said.
“Now we have two weeks to try and recover all the players. We need all our squad fit because we can’t rotate in the way we would like to keep them fresh. Maybe that’s been the problem. “But today the feeling was fantastic.”
Pochettino, the first Tottenham manager to avoid defeat in his first five north London league derbies, said Dele Alli, who missed the game with a knee injury, could be out for a few weeks, while England team mate Kyle Walker, who limped off, would be assessed by the doctor.
Kane is likely to link up with the England squad though after lasting 72 minutes on his return from a seven-week lay-off.