As Arsenal prepare to jet off to Germany for the crucial Group F fixture against Borussia Dortmund, Arsene Wenger has given us an insight into how he structures a Champions League away trip.
The Gunners have travelled to various parts of Europe for Champions League matches in each of the past 16 seasons, and the manager explained that the way he organises the timings and logistics behind each fixture has remained largely unchanged over the years.
“Usually we have our last training session here in London the morning the day before the game, and then travel in the afternoon,” said Wenger.
“Then you have a press conference when you arrive in the city where you play. The next morning you get the players up at around 10am, and we have a pre-match meeting where we talk to the players about the opposition, and what we need to do. Then we have lunch, followed by an afternoon sleep and then tea.
"Basically during the time between a Champions League game and a Premier League game there is more medical work than technical work"
"We will have another meeting then before heading to the stadium, where we will speak more about the way we want to play. I give the team out and then we head to the stadium.
"After the game we always like to come back to London straight away. Some teams stay the night in the country they have played, but we always return immediately after the game, no matter where we have played.”
Flying home as soon as possible after the final whistle is a policy Wenger has long abided by; it’s the same during pre-season tours as well, when the team will move onto their next destination as soon as the match is over, often travelling through the night.
“I do that because we play late at night, and there is always an excitement there,” the boss continued. “If we stay behind in a hotel afterwards, the players won't sleep until three or four o'clock, and some won't sleep until five or six because just after a game it can be difficult to sleep.
"So if we do that, and travel back the next day, you would need to wake them up at about eight o'clock in the morning, just when they are starting to sleep. So then you lose the next day as well because you wont arrive home until one, two or three o'clock in the afternoon.
"But if you come home straight away, even if you don't get to bed until 4am that night, you can leave them in bed until midday and so you don't lose sleep, and you don't lose the next day. I always found it better to recover that way.”
As soon as Arsenal return from Germany in the early hours of Thursday morning, attention will turn to the next game - and they don’t come much bigger than Manchester United away.
Arsenal will head to Old Trafford for a 4.10pm kick off this Sunday, leaving little time between the fixtures for much more than basic recovery work.
There is, at least, more room for manoeuvre than earlier in the season, when the team played at Fenerbahce on the Wednesday night, and then had an away game in the Premier League early the following Saturday.
Wenger outlined what the schedule is between two such games: “Basically it is all based on warm-downs, recoveries, treatments and assessments: who is tired, who isn’t tired, who has knocks and so on.
"Basically during the time between a Champions League game and a Premier League game there is more medical work than technical work. If you play on Wednesday night in Fenerbahce and then play at 12.45pm on Saturday at Fulham, what else can you do?
"You arrive at five in the morning on Thursday, you get them warmed down, then the next day a recovery session outside, then you go again to the next hotel.”
Wenger will be hoping that this tried and tested formula for dealing with Champions League away games will prove successful again this week – in Dortmund and in Manchester.
The stats should provide encouragement - Arsenal have lost just one of their last six away games in the Champions League (winning the last three), and are unbeaten in their last six matches that immediately followed a European away day (winning the last four).
Referee: Bjorn Kuipers (NED)
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