The Gunners For the 2nd Place?
|Arsenal´s coach Arsene Wenger speaks during a press conference in Porto on December 9, on the eve of their Champions League group G football match against FC Porto. Wenger admitted he doesn´t care if Arsenal edge out Porto in the race for pole position.|
Arsenal lead the Porto by two points and can wrap up first place with a draw against the Portuguese champions at the last match .
That would guarantee Arsenal a second round tie against one of the seven other group runners-up, with the second leg played at the Emirates Stadium, but Wenger isn’t convinced that is the advantage it is made out to be.
As it stands heading into the last round of group fixtures, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Villarreal could all finish second and go on to face the Gunners, so Wenger won’t be getting carried away if his team come first.
“It makes a difference to win the group because it makes you feel you have done your job better than to finish second,” he said.
“Does it really make a difference in the outcome of the last 16 tie? I do not know.
“Maybe there is an advantage to play the second game at home, but if you look at all the groups, there is not a big difference between some teams finishing first or second.”
While Wenger won’t lose much sleep if Arsenal don’t finish top, he knows the positive effect of a victory on his young team could be invaluable.
After their stunning triumph at Chelsea, Wenger’s side once again spluttered against lesser opposition before scraping a win over Wigan on Saturday.
The lethargic, nervous nature of Arsenal’s performance suggested Wenger’s team still aren’t comfortable in matches where they are the favourites.
Nothing summed up Arsenal’s fragile morale more than the sight of Emmanuel Eboue trooping despondently down the tunnel with howls of derision from the home fans ringing in his ears.
There were mitigating circumstances for Eboue’s woeful display as the Ivory Coast defender was playing out of position on the left wing after coming on as a substitute.
But, with injuries biting hard in the Gunners midfield, Wenger has no intention of taking Eboue out of the firing line against Porto and he plans to reassure the right-back of his importance to the team.
“I think he will play on Wednesday,” Wenger said. “Of course I will sit down with him and talk to him. I believe it could make him stronger and more determined to show how good he is.”
Eboue is needed as Theo Walcott and Tomas Rosicky are both sidelined with long-term injuries and Samir Nasri picked up an ankle problem against Wigan.
The absence of so many midfielders has put more responsiblity on Denilson, the 20-year-old Brazilian currently partnering Cesc Fabregas in one of the Premier League’s youngest engine rooms.
Denilson is a playmaker by inclination but he has had to subdue his creative instincts and become more industrious to complement Fabregas’s sublime passing skills.
“Cesc and I play well together, he is a fantastic player,” Denilson said. “I have always believed we could do it because we have the quality.
“Sometimes I have to be more defensive, I am learning to stay more in position now and not to go up front too much.
“I still have a strong belief in the team because now we have more focus, on the Premier League, on the Champions League, on everything.
“In my head, it is now thinking no more lose or draw – just about win, win, win.
“Arsenal have a young team, but it is one with experience and quality. When you watch our football, it fantastic, all one or two touch and I believe in this team.”