ATHENS, Greece, December 5- Arsene Wenger insists Arsenal will give everything in their Champions League clash against Olympiakos even though the Gunners have nothing to play for in Greece on Tuesday.
The Gunners have already qualified for the last 16 as group winners and that could have been the cue for Wenger to send out an under-strength team for a fixture that, at first glance, appears meaningless.
Arsenal were in this position two seasons ago and Wenger elected to send a young side out to Greece with an average age of just 21 — the youngest ever in the Champions League.
However, second place in the group is still up for grabs, with even bottom club Borussia Dortmund not completely out of contention, and, while the Gunners boss will rest several stars, he still plans to field a competitive line-up at Karaiskakis Stadium for the integrity of the competition.
“First, the priority is to respect the competition and to win our game. That is what I will try to do,” Wenger said.
“I will go with a side who has experience and give the chance as well to some young players.
“I have done that against Manchester City in the League Cup quarter-final recently and you could see the team was really up for it. The target is to respect the competition, win our game and finish the group stage unbeaten.”
Wenger feels his squad deserve great credit for their achievements in Europe this season.
“We haven’t lost a game up until now and I believe we had a very difficult group,” he said.
“Dortmund are certainly the best side in Germany at the moment, Olympiakos and Marseille are not easy games and when you look at where we had to come from against Udinese in the play-off, I feel we can be quite satisfied with the way we managed to get through.”
Arsenal may be safely into the knockout stages with a match to spare, but the same cannot be said for Premier League rivals Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United.
Wenger feels a scenario of the Gunners as England’s only representatives in the knockout stages of Europe’s elite club competition would not be positive for the Premier League or Arsenal’s hopes of finishing in the top four.
“It would be a little bit of a disadvantage in the Premier League, but that is a catastrophic scenario for England and would basically harm our places in Europe for the future,” Wenger said.
“That is what you don’t want — that you go from four to three Champions League places. Hopefully that will not happen.
“Of course the teams like Manchester United would then focus on the FA Cup and the domestic championship, but let’s see — I don’t think that will happen.”