Uefa’s player eligibility rules must change, insists Arsene Wenger

Arsene Wenger has called on Uefa to alter the rules which have left Arsenal unable to play club-record signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the Europa League.

The Gabon striker, a January arrival from Borussia Dortmund, is unavailable for the Gunners’ trip to face Swedish side Ostersund as his former club could come up against Arsenal in the latter rounds, having dropped into the competition after finishing third in their Champions League group.

Another January signing, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, can feature because, although he turned out four times for Manchester United in the Champions League this term, the Red Devils remain in Europe’s premier club tournament.

But Wenger, who is also without Alexandre Lacazette after the forward underwent minor knee surgery on Tuesday, believes the regulation is antiquated.

Asked if Aubameyang’s absence was caused by an old-fashioned rule, Wenger replied: “Yes. Unanimously, I believe that all the clubs agree now this rule has to disappear in Europe. Especially because, for example, he played Dortmund, Dortmund has been reversed in the Europa League and he cannot play.

“When you look at the transfer amounts you spend now, that you have to spend £50, 60, 70 million in the middle of the season, that the players cannot play doesn’t make sense. Unanimously everywhere in Europe now the clubs are against this rule.”

Wenger could yet be accused of being ill-prepared for the threat of Ostersund, a side who came into existence one month after he took the reins at Arsenal in 1996.

The Frenchman admitted he is unsure as to who will captain his side at the Jamtkraft Arena, while also conceding his players will not be used to the artificial surface.

Unlike most other sides playing in Europe, Arsenal opt to prepare at their own London Colney base on the eve of the game rather than taking up the option to train at the stadium. Wenger said he has no urge to change those plans despite his players being uncertain of the conditions in northern Sweden.

“No because it is really disturbing the organisation and the way we want to prepare for a game and I think we will adapt,” he said.

“We have played sometimes indoors. We have an artificial pitch, even if it is completely different. I have heard this is 4G, we have 3G, so it is different and outside it is different as well but no matter we have not to make too big a problem with it.” Mesut Ozil and Danny Welbeck will start tonight as the Gunners look to head into next week’s reverse leg at the Emirates Stadium in good shape.

Meanwhile Ostersund head coach Graham Potter insists he would be a “fool” not to try and pick the brain of Wenger over the next week.

Potter took charge of the club, formed a month after Wenger was appointed Arsenal boss in 1996, seven years ago and has not looked back. Under the tutelage of the former West Brom and Southampton defender, the club has risen from the fourth division to the Allsvenskan and last April won the Svenska Cupen — their first ever major trophy.

His journey can be compared to that of Wenger, who went off to manage in Japan after spells at Monaco and Nancy, before taking his post at Arsenal.

Since then he has won the Premier League three times and lifted a record seven FA Cups – with Potter admitting he would like to learn as much as he can from the Frenchman.

“I would love to, of course,” he replied when asked if he will be looking to pick Wenger’s brain.

“I would be a fool not to. The experiences he has had and the things he has achieved, he is an inspiration so it would be foolish of me not to, if he would be so kind.”


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