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Monday, 24 June, 2002, 14:10 GMT 15:10 UK

Wenger's Premiership call

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger insists he would be in favour of a shorter Premiership season - but said players would have to take a pay cut to achieve it.

Wenger's comments followed calls for a mid-season break by England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson, who blamed the long season on his side's lacklustre World Cup quarter-final defeat to Brazil.

And France coach Roger Lemerre - who had eight of his World Cup squad playing in England - also blamed his team's first-round elimination on the stresses of the domestic season.

But Wenger warned that the only way to reduce matches would be to slash wages.

" I would have liked to see smiling players, happy to have won or performed well, it creates joy in a group "
Arsene Wenger

He told French newspaper L'Equipe: "I am happy to reduce the number of games while continuing to pay the players the same rates, but I have yet to be told how.

"It is simple - less matches means less money for the clubs.

"How can you keep paying the players at the current rates if the numbers of matches, which are the main source of revenue for clubs, are reduced?

"The only possible measure is to limit the budget devoted to the salary costs and pay less. But this will not be easy to set up."

Wenger conceded that a number of stars at the World Cup were hampered by fatigue but he stressed it was a reverse of the normal situation where clubs get back exhausted players from international duty.

"Players are over-used by their clubs and their national teams, but this is not the role of their employers, Arsenal, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid or the rest them," he said.

"It is usually the clubs who are penalised and get back very tired players after important competitions.

"This time is the national teams who suffered from the long seasons their international players have experienced with their clubs.

"One problem is that this World Cup started only two weeks after the last competitions, and a guy like (Patrick) Vieira who played 62 matches for us, is obviously expected not to arrive in Japan physically fresh."

Wenger cried foul last season when his French players were called up in the middle of the domestic calendar to play a friendly in Australia.

He admitted this time around that he was pleased his French stars would return to Highbury fresh from their short World Cup campaign.

But he insisted he would rather have seen his countrymen do well at the tournament.

"The only advantage I can see to France's elimination is that I will get fresh players when we resume training," said Wenger.

"But it does not make me feel happy, I would have liked to see smiling players, happy to have won or performed well, it creates joy in a group."

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