December 25, 2014

Arsenal start their crowded festive schedule against Queens Park Rangers at the Emirates Stadium on Boxing Day, with manager Arsene Wenger having voiced concern that players may suffer due to the lack of a mid-winter break in the Premier League season.

Most top-flight European leagues shut down at Christmas for nearly a month as players are allowed to recharge their batteries in preparation for the second half of their league campaigns.

"It's a shock to the system for everybody who is not used to it," Wenger told his club's website, having already voiced his concerns about overworking Chilean star striker Alexis Sanchez. "They are mentally used to a break over Christmas when they can see their family.

"The players who are from South America used to go home and of course in England they cannot do it. You have to tell them, 'Be careful, in England there's no stop in winter'. Many of them suffer physically."

The Gunners (7-6-4) were held to a 2-2 draw at Liverpool last Sunday after conceding a goal seven minutes into stoppage time.

Philippe Coutinho gave the Reds the lead on 45 minutes before Mathieu Debuchy leveled for the Gunners within seconds. Olivier Giroud scored what appeared to the winner for Arsenal on 64 minutes, but Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel's last-gasp equaliser when he headed home a Adam Lallana corner dashed the Londoners' hopes of avenging last season's 5-1 defeat at Anfield.

Sixth-place Arsenal have won only three of their last seven league matches and trail table-topping Chelsea by 15 points.

The Gunners round off their holiday fixtures with away matches at upstarts West Ham United on Sunday and Southampton on New Year's Day.

Queens Park Rangers (5-2-10) moved out of the relegation places following a 3-2 come-from-behind home victory against West Bromwich Albion last weekend. The Baggies were two goals up after 20 minutes before emerging Rangers striker Charlie Austin hit his first Premier League hat trick to secure all three points for the Londoners.

Rangers are 16th in the table with 17 points, all accrued from their nine home matches. The Hoops have lost all eight of their away league matches, getting outscored 21-3, and have yet to hold a lead at any point in any league match outside Loftus Road this season.

Manager Harry Redknapp has attempted to downplay the significance of his side's poor road form.

"People are making a big thing of it, but at the end of the day we are sitting there with 17 points and I would have taken that at the start of the season, all day long," he told hid club's website. "To be where we are at this particular time, I am delighted.

"We've played every system away from home, but it's not systems that win games, it's players. We've had hard away games, very difficult away games."

Rangers complete their holiday fixtures at home against Crystal Palace on Sunday and Swansea City on Jan. 1.

Arsenal will have playmaker Tomas Rosicky and goalkeeper David Ospina available after thigh problems. Laurent Koscielny (calf) and Aaron Ramsey (hamstring) have been ruled out, while Rangers will be without Yun Suk-Young (ankle), Sandro and Alejandro Faurlin (both knee).

The Gunners did the double over QPR last season, winning both matches 1-0.

A worrying statistic for Redknapp and his players ahead of Friday's match is that Arsenal have lost only one of their 17 Boxing Day Premier League matches (11-5-1).

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