Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has blasted the rule which forbids the Gunners from fielding striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, the club's record £56m signing, in Thursday’s Europa League last-32 first-leg showdown against Ostersunds FK.
Aubameyang is ineligible for Arsenal’s European campaign because his former club Borussia Dortmund dropped into the Europa League having finished third in their Champions League group.
Had Dortmund remained in the Champions League then the 28-year-old would have been free to play, just as Henrikh Mkhitaryan is eligible to feature after ex-employers Manchester United qualified for the last-16 of that tournament.
“Unanimously I know all clubs agree now that this rule has to disappear,” said Wenger. “It doesn’t make any sense.”
The absence of Aubameyang has hit the north Londoners harder after fellow frontman Alexandre Lacazette was forced to undergo knee surgery on Tuesday, ruling him out for up to six weeks.
That has left Danny Welbeck as Wenger’s sole senior striking option for the showdown with the Swedish minnows, who are managed by Englishman Graham Potter, at the 9,000-seater Jamtkraft Arena. Welbeck has Wenger’s full backing.
“He had to wait a little bit to get back into the team, but that gave him time to work on his fitness,” added the Frenchman. “He looks sharper than he has in a long time, very sharp. It’s an opportunity for him to do well.”
Petr Cech, Laurent Koscielny and Jack Wilshere have all been left at home, although Wenger has confirmed that he will hand Mesut Ozil his first start in the Europa League this season.
Winning the completion offers a place in the next season’s Champions League and, with Arsenal languishing in sixth place, eight points behind fourth-placed Chelsea, it may represent their best chance.
Wenger said: “When you go into a competition it is to try to win it.”