champions league news

Wenger to rely on starlets in Champions League

December 7, 2009

Arsene Wenger openly admits he will not gamble with the fitness of any of his first-team regulars against Olympiakos in Arsenal's final Champions League group game on Wednesday.

Jack Wilshere
GettyImagesJack Wilshere would consider a loan move

With safe passage into the knockout stages already secure, Wenger will take a youthful squad to Greece to give some of his walking wounded a chance to recuperate ahead of the vital Premier League trip to Liverpool on Sunday.

Forwards Theo Walcott and Eduardo both missed the win over Stoke on Saturday with minor injuries, while Czech winger Tomas Rosicky was substituted at half-time with a groin problem that could keep him out for a month.

William Gallas, Emmanuel Eboue, Armand Traore and Andrei Arshavin all suffered knocks during the 2-0 win, leaving Wenger with something of a selection headache ahead of their midweek match.

However, given that the group is already won and there is nothing other than pride resting on the outcome, Wenger is ready to give those players who helped reach the Carling Cup quarter-finals more big-game experience.

"In the competition as a whole this season, the boys did really well and I am extremely proud of them," Wenger said. "I will give some of them an opportunity on Wednesday, for many reasons.

"At the moment, we have so many players injured that we cannot take any Gambles. Also, you must give players a breather when you can. You will see Fran [Merida], [Jack] Wilshere etc.

"We played Manchester City last week and they had a full side out. For an hour we did not suffer at all. I will try to build a similar team in Greece.

"It will be a great game for them because Olympiakos will play for something, and it is another good opportunity to show that we can do better than we did at Man City."

Mikael Silvestre, 32, is also set to start to help give experience to the younger players, and Wenger believes his value is not recognised.

"He doesn't get enough praise for his attitude and his quality," he said. "Silvestre's commitment to the cause was absolutely fantastic at Man City. People respect him highly in the dressing room. He's a quiet leader.

"He is a positive guy and helps the young players, but of course the best help is to win the games."

Olympiakos, coached by Brazil legend Zico, are currently unbeaten at the top of the Greek domestic league and recently beat arch-rivals Panathinaikos. A draw would be enough to see Olympiakos also safely through to the last 16 ahead of Standard Liege.