Wenger has ultimate faith in his Arsenal understudies


ARSENAL manager Arsene Wenger has warned his fringe players not to treat tonight’s Champions League clash against Olympiacos as a glorified friendly.

While the Greek champions could progress with a victory, even a defeat in Athens wouldn’t prevent the Gunners from topping Group F following their impressive 2-1 victory over Borussia Dortmund a fortnight ago.

With that in mind Wenger has selected an inexperienced squad – of the team that started Saturday’s 4-0 win at Wigan only Thomas Vermaelen and Andre Santos have travelled – but the Frenchman insists whatever team he picks will be capable of victory.

He said: “It is not who we left at home, it is who will play who is important. Before you make an early judgement, let’s wait to see how our team will do.

“We have a very strong team, many of the team have played in the first game against Olympiacos, so give the players who turn up some credit, they will produce a good performance.

“We are unbeaten and want to continue our run, and also to be respectful of everybody else in the group. We have a moral responsibility to play to win tomorrow.0

“I would be very, very disappointed if our winning attitude was not completely right and I will make sure we walk out there with immense desire to try to win the game.”

Youngsters Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Francis Coquelin and Emmanuel Frimpong all caught the eye in last week’s narrow defeat against Manchester City in the Carling Cup and all three are likely to start this evening.

Frimpong, the Ghanaian-born midfield powerhouse, impressed during last season’s Emirates Cup before suffering a cruciate knee ligament injury which ruled him out for over a year.

Such is the competition for places at Arsenal, the 19-year-old admitted there were periods during his rehabilitation when he thought his chances of forging a career at Emirates Stadium were over.

“I knew I would come back to playing football, but felt I was never going to get my chance at Arsenal again,” he said. “When I had my chance, everything was going well. I thought that when I came back, we would have all the other players fit again.

“But in football you can’t predict anything, and I have just carried on from where I left off before I suffered the injury. Now I know I have to keep playing well to force the issue of playing in the team.”