Friday 23 February 2018

Wenger may rest Cech despite 'must win' Olympiakos clash

Arsenal's Manager Arsene Wenger plans to rest first-choice goalkeeper Cech
Arsenal's Manager Arsene Wenger plans to rest first-choice goalkeeper Cech

Jeremy Wilson

Arsene Wenger is considering a Champions League gamble tonight by again resting first-choice goalkeeper Petr Cech for the "must-win" match against Olympiacos.

After losing in Zagreb two weeks ago and with fixtures against Bayern Munich looming, the visit of Olympiakos has assumed a huge importance but Wenger is intent this season on rotating what he regards as his strongest Arsenal squad of recent times.

David Ospina started in place of Cech in Croatia and Wenger confirmed last night that he would no longer automatically pick his No 1 goalkeeper in the Premier League for the European matches.

Aaron Ramsey, another ever-present in the league, is also expected to be rested ahead of the match against Manchester United on Sunday. Wenger made six outfield changes in Zagreb ahead of a similarly important Premier League match against Chelsea but has no regrets.

"It's more the games we played before which could influence selection," the manager said.

"Some players have played two tough games, at Tottenham and Leicester, where it was a high level physically.

"The 20 fit players I have available can play in every game. I am confident I can play a very strong team."

Wenger has talked in the past about giving Cech a "mental" break and he also accepts that it has been harsh this season for Ospina to lose his place.

"I need to give Ospina games. He is a top level goalkeeper but that doesn't mean that he will play (tonight)," the manager said. "It will go game by game, and I am fortunate to have two goalkeepers of this quality."

Arsenal have a proud record of 15 consecutive appearances in the last 16 of the Champions League. Asked if it was "must win", Wenger said: "You sum it up well. We cannot afford to drop points at home."

Wenger knows Arsenal must be penetrative and clinical. To that end, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is expected to replace Ramsey on the right. Ramsey is likely to be rested but will be asked to play centrally if Francis Coquelin does not come through a final test on his knee. Both Mathieu Flamini and Mikel Arteta are injured.

Wenger said: "Alex's dad said he lacks a bit of self-belief and I can confirm that because he is very critical of himself," the manager said.

"That's a sign of top level sportsmen but you have to find the right balance: maybe he sees only what he has not done well, not enough what he has done well.

"He's 22, you become a complete player at 23. From 23 to 30 is where you are at your best."

Oxlade-Chamberlain admitted: "Sometimes putting demands on yourself can work in a negative fashion. Self-belief is a massive part of the game."

He also believes everyone can learn from the tenacious approach of Chile forward Alexis Sanchez, whose all-action performances bore fruit with a hat-trick in the victory against Leicester on Saturday.

He said: "Alexis is one of the most passionate and hungry individuals I know. He brings out the best of you in training every day and also in matches.

"It is his everyday mannerisms around the training ground, how he trains, his performances, how he scores goals, how he plays and how he defends from up front, these are all things that we can all learn." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Arsenal v Olympiakos,

Live, TV3, 7.45

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