Wenger forced to adopt a hard line

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The Independent Online

Arsene Wenger has ordered some of his millionaire players to rough it in the bleak depths of the old Soviet empire because he is not happy that Arsenal only beat struggling, 10-man Middlesbrough 1-0 at the weekend.

Arsene Wenger has ordered some of his millionaire players to rough it in the bleak depths of the old Soviet empire because he is not happy that Arsenal only beat struggling, 10-man Middlesbrough 1-0 at the weekend.

The Arsenal manager originally intended fielding his Worthington Cup line-up of reserves and inexperienced youngsters against Shakhtar Donetsk, who are already out of the Champions' League while Arsenal are guaranteed top place in Group B and a favourable draw in the second phase.

However, Wenger has brought French internationals Thierry Henry and Sylvain Wiltord, England's Martin Keown and Ray Parlour as well as the Africans Kanu and Lauren on a 4,000-mile round trip to a Ukrainian city where food, water and hygiene are suspect.

"Frankly, the players didn't really want to come, but it is their job," said Wenger, who has also ordered the airlift of Arsenal's own food and drink, two chefs and a wardrobe of cold-weather protection.

"I rested players in the Worthington Cup last week and we still didn't play any better for it," said Wenger. "Also, there are some players like Kanu, Wiltord and Lauren who need more games. And this one gives me the chance to see Henry and Wiltord together up front."

Wenger last week agreed a pact with the Lazio coach, Sven Goran Eriksson, the incoming England manager, that both clubs would leave out key players for their final fixture in Group B. Lazio are also already certain of qualification as group runners-up, but tonight's results will decide who finishes third between Shakhtar and Sparta Prague and wins a lucrative Uefa Cup consolation place.

But Wenger said: "I haven't had to go back to Sven as I've still left seven top players in England, mostly for medical reasons."

Excused duty are the captain Tony Adams and goalkeeper David Seaman (back problems), Robert Pires (pulled hamstring) injured Ukrainian defender Oleg Luzhny plus Patrick Vieira and Silvinho - only just fit again after injuries - and non-flyer Dennis Bergkamp. Gilles Grimandi is on a three-match European ban.

Arsenal (probable): Taylor; Dixon, Keown, Upson, Cole; Lauren, Parlour, Kanu, Vivas; Henry, Wiltord. Substitutes: Lukic (gk), Ljungberg, Weston, Barrett, Wreh, Vernazza, Mendez.

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