Arsène Wenger has hinted he will rest Arsenal's key players for their Champions League return leg with Bayern Munich tonight, risking the wrath of supporters.
Trailing 1-3 from the first leg three weeks ago, the Gunners face a daunting task in the Allianz Arena against Germany's champions-elect. Bayern have lost just one game all season in the Bundesliga and have conceded just 10 goals.
Last season Arsenal gave a spirited, yet fruitless, display when they won their round-of-16 second leg with AC Milan 3-0 having been thumped 4-0 at the San Siro. Similarly to their 2012 circumstances, they are vying for a top four finish in the Premier League, which Wenger appears to have prioritised.
Arsène Wenger: A game of shadows
"Swansea is a massive game this weekend and qualifying for the Champions League is massive," he stressed at his pre-match press conference on Tuesday.
"We want to be in there and I don’t envisage anything else. That’s why it was so difficult for us to lose at Tottenham.
"It means more because it was Tottenham, but it was the impact for us in the league which was the worry for me."
Arsenal have not played since their 2-1 loss at White Hart Lane 10 days ago, but they will have been buoyed by their local adversaries surrendering a 2-1 advantage at Liverpool on Sunday to lose for the first time in the league since December.
Wenger yesterday added "anything is possible" ahead of tonight's tie, however he has undermined his own preaching with the selection of back-up goalkeeper Łukasz Fabiański.
The Pole is the only one of Arsenal's four keepers not to have played this campaign and his experiences at this stage of the competition have been chastening. He floundered at Porto in 2010 when he gifted the Portuguese side two goals for a 2-1 win.
Wojciech Szczęsny, who is experiencing an error-strewn season, is "mentally affected", Wenger admitted.
Between the sticks: Fabiański will play for the first time this season in Munich
"He is mentally affected a little bit, so I decided to rest him. Szczęsny has played in every single game. It is only his second season at the top level and if you look at the number of goalkeepers at the top, not many are his age.
"I also used him in the FA Cup and because he played many games it is difficult to absorb mentally. Everything is analysed because there is so much pressure at a big club.
"I decided to give him a breather just to refresh him and not be under increasing pressure. Once people start to speak about you, you start to think you can’t afford to make mistakes — and that’s when you make the mistakes."
Szczęsny's error in the FA Cup teed up Blackburn's Colin Kazim-Richards to eliminate Arsenal and instigate a miserable month which has taken in the defeats to Bayern and Spurs.
Wenger effectively volunteered criticism with the admission about Szczęsny's mental state, having failed to buy a goalkeeper since the problem arose around six years ago.
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