I have no problem in understanding that Arsene Wenger has put the Arsenal games in the Europa League group stage down below the Premier League on his list of priorities. He probably would have done so anyway but when the fixture list threw up five EPL away games out of six following these Thursday night ties it really was a no-brainer for the boss to heavily rotate the Arsenal squad.
As has been proved in the first four games, which have netted the Gunners 10 points from a possible 12 and already secured us a place in the next round, Wenger had a strong enough squad to do it without too many problems and you could say that the experience and playing time on the pitch has been very useful for the young Gunners and the fringe players who would otherwise not have featured much.
The Frenchman spoke about this in his comments after the somewhat fortunate and uninspiring draw at home to Red Star Belgrade last night, as reported by Sky Sports, as he defended his team selection and praised the visitors for giving Arsenal such a hard game.
He said, “We made four games, 10 points. So overall it’s good if I can combine both (domestic and European football).
“You could see tonight it was a very intense game, and with the number of games we play, we want to play in every single competition. I will continue (rotating) at the moment.
“They started stronger than us; they played very well at the start. They played with a high pace, were dangerous on the breaks and defended very well.
“In the second half we dominated possession much more but lacked a bit of quality in the final ball, vision to find the right space and overall it was a fair 0-0.
“It’s frustrating when you don’t score, but overall you understand that with many young players in the team, that’s part of the learning process for them, playing these types of games.”
I suppose it is, but it also depends on what you want the likes of Reiss Nelson and Ashley Maitland-Niles to learn, because I think there is a flip side. There is a theory that it is much better to introduce up and coming young players into a strong side so that they get a taste of what playing in the first team will be like, rather than struggling in a disjointed display because the whole team are unused to playing together.
I have a feeling that a game like the one against Red Star last night could well drain some zest out of exciting young talents like Nelson rather than helping them to progress. What do you guys think?