Arsène Wenger has told his critics to judge him at the end of the season, rather than following emotionally charged defeats as he prepared to field an experimental team in Arsenal’s final Champions League Group D tie at Galatasaray on Tuesday.
The manager took the unusual step of naming his starting XI here in Istanbul on the eve of the game, claiming it was because he had “nothing to hide”. Arsenal are assured of qualification to the last 16 and they have only a slim chance of overhauling Borussia Dortmund to claim top spot in the group.
Wenger has consequently decided to leave a host of established players back in London to rest various knocks and aching limbs before Saturday’s Premier League visit of Newcastle United, when the team will seek to bounce back from Saturday’s 3-2 defeat at Stoke City, which gave further fuel to those supporters who want to see Wenger leave the club.
The manager reported that Alexis Sánchez had carried a groin problem “for some time” and had not travelled to Turkey while Laurent Koscielny (achilles), Kieran Gibbs (hip) and Danny Welbeck (knee) have been omitted as precautionary measures. Santi Cazorla, Wenger said, needed a rest while Olivier Giroud is ineligible, having not been registered. Many other players remain on the injured list, including Mesut Ozil, Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott and Mikel Arteta.
Wojciech Szczesny will return in goal, after a lay-off with hip trouble, while Mathieu Debuchy will start at right-back – his first action since ankle ligament damage in September. Hector Bellerín will play at left-back and there will be starts for Joel Campbell, Yaya Sanogo and Lukas Podolski as part of a front three. Wenger will name six youngsters on the bench – the centre-half Stefan O’Connor, the midfielders Gedion Zelalem and Glen Kamara and the forwards Chuba Akpom, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Alex Iwobi.