Arsene Wenger insists none of his Arsenal players are guaranteed a starting berth.
Despite hinting he would pick a weakened side against Bayern Munich in their midweek UEFA Champions League clash, the French coach fielded a relatively strong XI. And as his side stunned the German giants 2-0, there could be few complaints from the travelling fans who saw their team come within a goal of securing an unlikely quarter-final spot.
The omissions of Wojciech Szczesny and Thomas Vermaelen, for Lukas Fabianski and Laurent Koscielny, raised a few eyebrows pre-match. The Pole had seemingly established himself as the regular number one since last season, but he made way to his compatriot after a string of uncertain performances of late. And the Belgian defender was installed as club captain following the departure of Robin van Persie in the summer, but he too appears to have regressed during the course of the current campaign.
Both Fabianski and Koscielny performed admirably in Munich, as the Londoners kept a first clean sheet in four matches, and this has handed Wenger a welcome selection headache ahead of their difficult trip to SwanseaCity on Saturday. Just as importantly, it sends out a message to his players that nobody is guaranteed a place in the starting line-up.
“Every position is up for grabs,” said the Arsenal boss. “You have to face it like that, the last game decides the next one. All the players are in the same position. Nobody is guaranteed places in the team. Everybody faces the same competition and the players who (have) come in have been on the bench for a long, long time. They all have the same problem.”
The Gunners, who have qualified for the Champions League in each of the last 15 seasons, face a real battle to maintain this record this term. If they win at the Liberty Stadium they will remain in fifth place and will still be two points adrift of Chelsea in fourth and four behind third-place Tottenham Hotspur, both of whom are not in action until Sunday due to their UEFA Europa League excursions on Thursday evening. A defeat against the Capital One Cup winners, who won the corresponding fixture at the Emirates Stadium 2-0 in December, could prove a significant blow to Wenger’s top-four ambitions.