GUNNERS KIDS CAN DICTATE FATE
Wenger calls for courage on hostile territory in hardline state
ARSENE WENGER arrived in the last dictatorship in Europe and ordered his Arsenal youngsters to show their “courage” in the hatefilled home of Belarus champions BATE Borisov.
The Gunners boss left behind a raft of star names for the Europa League tie at the Borisov Arena, which was closed as a punishment for racist chanting in 2014.
He will send out his cup side with Per Mertesacker and Jack Wilshere lending vital experience to starlets such as Joe Willock and Ainsley Maitland-Niles.
And Wenger told the next generation to seize their chance as Arsenal bid to end the month unbeaten. “This is the kind of job where you don’t get 10 opportunities to play for Arsenal,” said the Frenchman.
“When you get it, even if it’s only 20 minutes, you have to convince people you have the qualities to do it and you have the courage to play and show your qualities.
“There’s always an uncertainty. You see in training the player has the quality. Yes, he is here because he has the qualities.
“After, to show it during competition is something different. And in my experience you only discover that during the competition.
“They have a new stadium, a good crowd – I’ve heard it’s 17,000 capacity – so it will be very loud.” Alexander Lukashenko has been Belarus president since 1994 and crushed dissent after the 2010 election. In 2014, equally backward fans abused Shakhtar Donetsk’s Brazilian striker Luiz Adriano.
Wenger said: “I don’t have any preconceived ideas. I hope that will not happen, and UEFA has always been very strong to deal with that.”
Wenger admitted MaitlandNiles, who come. He has to realise that and no matter what position he plays, he has to take advantage of the opportunity.”
While Arsenal have not lost in five matches, BATE have won the Belarus title for the last 11 years and are unbeaten at home in Europe in their last seven matches. They last lost here to Barcelona in the Champions League group stages in 2015.
Wenger said: “They’re a team with good quality, technically strong, so we will need a good performance to have a chance.”
Laurent Koscielny, Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez, Granit Xhaka and Alexandre Lacazette did not make the 2,700-mile round trip ahead of Sunday’s league game with Brighton.
WON’T ROLL OVER Chuba Akpom (above) and Ainsley Maitland-Niles training yesterday and (far left) Eddie Nketiah and Joe Willock relaxed