Arsene Wenger gambles by resting key players for final Champions League game
Wenger concentrates on Premier League with European progress assured
Monday 03 December 2012
Arsene Wenger has opted to leave a number of first team regulars at home for the trip to Olympiakos whom Arsenal play on Tuesday in their final Champions League group game.
Arsenal have already qualified for the last-16 of the competition, although first place - and in theory an easier draw for the knock out phase - has not yet been determined. To finish top the Gunners must better the result of Schalke 04.
Among those left at home are England duo Theo Walcott and Jack Wilshere, along with Lukas Podolski, Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Per Mertesacker.
It represents something of a risk with Arsenal having dropped out at the last-16 stage in the previous two seasons. Last season they were beaten by AC Milan 4-3 on aggregate, and by the same scoreline by Barcelona the year before.
Arsenal have been stuttering domestically, with Wenger's side slumping to a 2-0 home defeat against Swansea at the weekend after being largely outplayed. The Gunners currently lie 10th, the worst start to a Premier League season since Wenger became manager in 1996.
Speaking after the Swansea game, Wenger blamed fatigue brought on by this season's Champions League games as a factor.
"We lost a game that we of course didn't want to lose, that is for sure," he said. "I can't deny that the quality was not there. It's difficult to come into deep analysis on the basis of the game. At home we have struggled with confidence and belief. But today was a more physical factor than psychological."
Arsenal's next Premier League game is at home against this season's surprise package, West Brom.
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