Arsene Wenger says Arsenal will travel to Athens full of belief knowing a two-goal victory against Olympiacos on Matchday Six will secure safe passage to the knockout stages.
The Gunners’ chances of qualification had looked slim following three defeats in their opening four European matches, however, this evening’s 3-0 victory over Dinamo Zagreb, coupled with the Greeks’ 4-0 humbling at the hands of Bayern Munich, sets up a tense finale on 9 December.
Having watched Alexis Sanchez add a brace to Mesut Ozil’s opener the boss faced the media in bullish mood.
“It is tough, but we have to believe we can do it, and I believe we can do it. We have one advantage, the task is very clear.”
“I wanted to come out of the game tonight with a chance of qualifying,” he added. “We needed to do the job and for Bayern to do the job. Both did it well, and we have a chance.
“We played at a good pace, produced a game of quality that we wanted. I believe the speed of our movement and passing gave Zagreb a problem. From then on, once we had scored the first goal you could see the chances were coming.
“It was important that we did not concede the first goal as we looked dangerous [going] forward. Overall we had a game of quality that we controlled well.”
Asked about why he ended up fielding Alexis Sanchez for the full 90 minutes, despite mentioning pre-game that he’d like to rest the Chilean, the boss revealed it was down to the wavering fitness of other players on the pitch.
“Giroud had a little problem with his ankle over the weekend but I decided to give [him] a breather [with Ramsey coming on for 25 minutes].
“Hector Bellerin, I took him off because he had a groin problem just before so I had to take them off meaning I could not take Alexis off. We now have five days to recover.
“I would have loved to do it tonight (rest Alexis) but I [had] two different options. Once it is 3-0 you are not in a position where you need him to work back and when you put him central up front you can spare a bit of energy. It is not like you have to go up and down. I tried to compromise a little bit and give a break to Giroud and not take a risk with Bellerin.”