UNDER-FIRE Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger insists he would not swap places with high-flying Manchester City, despite the Gunners suffering their worst ever start to a Premier League season.
Wenger has the distraction of a Champions League trip to Olympiacos tonight, but knows his team will progress to the last 16 regardless of the result, while City are out no matter how they fare at Borussia Dortmund.
“No, for one simple reason,” he said, when asked if he would trade places. “We can make up the distance in the league, but in the Champions League, you are either in or out.”
Wenger admitted his players had reacted angrily after Saturday’s home defeat to Swansea left them 10th in the domestic table, but denied suggestions that No2 Steve Bould had verbally torn into his under-achieving squad.
“Nothing really happened,” he said. “The players were not happy after the game – do you want them to do a dance after we lost? This group of players is very strong, very highly motivated, has a very good spirit and they want to win. If they don’t win, of course they are upset.”
Arsenal have rested a swathe of first-team regulars for the trip to Greece, including Jack Wilshere, Santi Cazorla, Theo Walcott and Mikel Arteta. While a win could see them top the group, a weakened squad indicates Wenger has settled for second place, while they have won just two final group fixtures in the last five seasons.
FINAL GROUP GAMES
Olympiacos 3–1 Arsenal (2011/12)
Arsenal field an under-strength side as the top group spot is already secure
Arsenal 3–1 Partizan (2010/11)
A win is needed to progress to the knock-out stages. Arsenal deliver
Olympiacos 1–0 Arsenal (2009/10)
Wenger decides to rest key players with the group already won
Porto 2–0 Arsenal (2008/09)
Already qualified, Arsenal’s second string team hands Porto the group
Arsenal 2–1 Steaua Bucharest (2007/08)
A win isn’t enough to better second place progression