Arsene Wenger insisted his squad rotation system is succeeding despite Arsenal struggling to impress during their 0-0 draw at home to Red Star Belgrade.
The Frenchman’s team progressed to the knockout stages of the Europa League after taking their total to 10 points from four Group H fixtures.
He had changed his entire starting XI from that which had impressed in recovering from a goal down to defeat Swansea 2-1 in the Premier League last weekend, and those selected struggled to influence the game.
Jack Wilshere – excluded from the latest England squad – Theo Walcott, Francis Coquelin and Olivier Giroud were prominent among those with ambitions of more regular football but who contributed little and will likely again be rotated for Sunday’s fixture at Manchester City, live on Sky Sports Premier League.
Their latest display again demonstrated the extent to which Arsenal suffer when Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and Laurent Koscielny are absent, but Wenger said: “We made four games, 10 points. So overall it’s good if I can combine both (domestic and European football).
“You could see tonight it was a very intense game, and with the number of games we play, we want to play in every single competition. I will continue (rotating) at the moment.
“They started stronger than us; they played very well at the start. They played with a high pace, were dangerous on the breaks and defended very well.
“In the second half we dominated possession much more but lacked a bit of quality in the final ball, vision to find the right space and overall it was a fair 0-0.
“It’s frustrating when you don’t score, but overall you understand that with many young players in the team, that’s part of the learning process for them, playing these types of games.”
When asked about Wilshere, 25, who started having impressed on the rare occasions Wenger has selected him this term, the manager responded: “He needs these kind of games to come back to his best level. And he needs to be injury-free for a long period until the end of the season, and get games like that.
“He’s not involved (with England) but if he keeps his fitness, maybe next time (he will be).”
Cologne’s 5-2 win against BATE Borisov in the group’s other fixture means Red Star remain second on five points and are in contention to join Arsenal at the competition’s next stage, and their manager Vladan Milojevic said: “It was a similar match to the one in Belgrade (where Arsenal won 1-0).
“Our plan was to play even better, to correct some errors from Belgrade. We knew Arsenal would press but that we needed to take our chances. We should have scored, there were some good chances for us.
“Loads of Premier League teams don’t play as well as we did against Arsenal. I have to congratulate my players.”