Wenger hints at second-leg selection plans after Arsenal suffer Barcelona defeat
PUBLISHED: 06:40 24 February 2016 | UPDATED: 09:43 24 February 2016
Arsene Wenger plans to play a full-strength team at the Nou Camp for Arsenal's Champions League second leg against Barcelona in March.
The Gunners hosted the Catalan giants on Tuesday night in the first knockout round and were beaten 2-0 thanks to a double from Lionel Messi.
Wenger’s men defended stoutly for 70 minutes and had chances to take the lead but an incisive counter-attack and a penalty left them with a mountain to climb to qualify for the quarter finals.
Arsenal have crashed out in the round of 16 in each of the past five seasons and they are on the brink of doing so yet again in this campaign.
With crucial games in the Premier League and FA Cup still to come, Wenger was asked if he would consider resting his star men for the second leg in Barcelona in order to focus on the domestic competitions.
“No,” he responded. “Barcelona are certainly through, 95 per cent, but we want to go there and play.
“We are Arsenal Football Club and we will not go there to just have no chance.
“What we want is to focus on our next game. It’s a shame that the players have not got any satisfaction tonight because energy-wise we put absolutely everything in.”
While Wenger accepted Barcelona are better than his Arsenal side, he criticised the La Liga champions for the way that they react after challenges and fouls.
“They are tricky,” he said. “When they go down, they shout.
“They never go down silent. That influences the referee every single time. All of them do it, not one of them goes down without shouting.
“I felt [that they influenced the referee] but let’s be honest, we haven’t lost the game because of the referee. We have to look at ourselves and analyse ourselves.
“Maybe he gave one or two fouls which were not fouls but overall he has had no major influence on the result of the game.”