Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is hoping that his Premier League rivals Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea can all qualify for the knockout stages of the Champions League this week.
The Gunners have already guaranteed progression as winners of Group F but the other three English sides all face battles of varying difficulties to reach the last 16, and the Frenchman fears that a mass failure to qualify could affect the nation’s coefficient ranking, which determines how many European places each league receives based on the performance of its clubs over a five-year period.
“That is a catastrophic scenario for England and would basically harm our places in Europe for the future,” said Wenger of the possibility of none of his rivals qualifying, according to The Daily Telegraph. “That’s what you don’t want — that you go from four to three [Champions League] places. Hopefully that will not happen.
“Of course the teams like Manchester United would then focus on the FA Cup and the [league] championship but let’s see. I don’t think that will happen.”
Champions League and Europa League performances affect each nation’s coefficient, with England currently top of the rankings and unlikely to be affected from next season regardless of the possibilities in this week’s games.
But English clubs will be wary of the situation in Italy, where clubs are this year competing in Serie A for only three spots in the continent’s premier competition, having lost too much ground to Germany’s Bundesliga in recent years.
With Arsenal already set to win the group, Wenger added that he would take the opportunity to blood some young players while still sending out a capable side when his team take on Olympiakos on Tuesday.
“The priority is to respect the competition and to win our game,” he said. “I will go with a side who has experience and give the chance as well to some young players. We have a moral responsibility to give absolutely everything to win.
“What I will do is make sure we are completely solid defensively. That means I will take a very experienced defence and I will again give a chance to [Alex] Oxlade-Chamberlain, [Emmanuel] Frimpong, [Marouane] Chamakh maybe.”
Wenger also reflected on the fact that Tuesday’s match will be his 200th in Europe for both Arsenal and former club Monaco.
“It is an impressive number because 200 games usually make a whole career,” the 62-year-old continued. “The whole season unbeaten in the Champions League, apart from the last 13 minutes was the highlight,” he added of the 2005-06 campaign, in which his side led Barcelona in the final before slipping to a 2-1 loss.
“You’re always learning about Europe. We have won in Madrid, Milan, Rome, Germany, France, everywhere. That means Arsenal is remembered well all over Europe as a strong club.”
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