Arsene Wenger insists his team selection will always reflect what is best for Arsenal — even if that means frustrating some of his star players.
The Gunners boss has been picking two different sides to compete in the Premier League and Europa League so far this season.
The likes of Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott, Olivier Giroud and Mohamed Elneny have mostly featured in Europe but been left on the sidelines in the battle for a top four finish in the league.
Wilshere, Walcott, and Giroud have all spoken about their frustration at a lack of game time in the Premier League — with France striker Giroud currently being picked for his country, as the England duo look like missing out on the World Cup at this moment.
But even Giroud, who is yet to start a league game this season, has been warned by Les Bleus assistant manager Guy Stephan that he needs to play more — even if Wenger feels the 31-year-old has had ample opportunity so far this campaign.
“They have to make their decisions, I have to make mine,” Wenger said of international managers.
“I cannot consider too much the interest of the national team, even if I support France. I can only play with 11 players and the players have to deal with that and so do I.
“Overall I try to give them competition, which is what they have had until now. But these are discussions I have had with the players. It’s part of it.”
Wenger also insists he was not deploying mind games by naming Alexandre Lacazette in his Arsenal side to face Manchester United despite having ruled out the striker due to a groin injury.
The France international was a shock inclusion in the 3-1 defeat to the Red Devils after Wenger had categorically stated he would miss the game after limping out of the midweek victory over Huddersfield at half-time.
Instead, Lacazette was named in an Arsenal side that slipped to a first defeat at the Emirates Stadium since March and scored the consolation goal as Jose Mourinho’s United left north London with all three points.
Mourinho made a pointed jibe towards Wenger when asked about his team news ahead of Sunday’s derby against early Premier League pace-setters Manchester City.
“I’m telling the truth,” Mourinho said when listing the availability of some of his players. “It’s the truth, eh? No stories of Lacazette or (Manchester City midfielder) David Silva. All the truth.”
Wenger, speaking ahead of Arsenal’s final Europa League group game at home to BATE Borisov, was asked about Mourinho’s comments and said he was genuinely expecting to go into the United game without his club-record signing.
“I thought he wouldn’t play,” he said. “In the end, he could play. What did you want me to do, leave him at home? I’m always honest. I thought really that he wouldn’t play, that’s what I had been told. After, he had a test on Friday morning and went to the game. We weren’t sure he would play but he tried and he played, that’s part of football.”
Wenger has been able to keep everyone relatively involved in first team matters due to Europa League commitments.
But that will change after tonight’s final Group H game at home to BATE Borisov as, with Arsenal already assured of progressing as group winners, the competition will not be back on the calendar until February.
“It is anyway difficult to keep them happy,”
Wenger said when asked if it would be more difficult to do so with a lack of European games in the coming months.
“You cannot keep players happy, but they deal well with it and it’s a problem we all have to deal with.
“As a player, they fight and I must say this is a job where you always have to be ready. When you are called up you have to be ready.
“Some manage to do it, some not. In the squad, this season more than ever, I cannot see a weakness in anyone’s motivation and quality in training.
“That doesn’t mean that the players who do not play, you respect them less. You respect people through their attitude and their attitude is fantastic.”
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