Wenger challenges his team

by Michelle Fortune , 15 March 2013

Arsene Wenger has warned that 'every position is up for grabs' and has challenged his players to prove they deserve their place in the starting line-up.

Arsenal's focus returns to the Premier League following their Champions League exit, but the Gunners face a fight to finish in the top four as they are five points behind fourth-placed Chelsea with ten games remaining.

Wenger was encouraged with his side's fighting spirit against Bayern Munich when they just missed out on a place in the quarter-finals of Europe's premier club competition and he wants them to reproduce that form in the league, warning that they must prove themselves to be assured of their place in the team.

"All the players are in the same position. Nobody's guaranteed places in the team," said Wenger.

"Every position is up for grabs. You have to face it like that, the last game decides the next one.

"Everybody faces the same competition and the players who [have] come in have been on the bench for a long, long time.

"They all have the same problem, the job of being a top-level competitor is to deal with that."

Captain Thomas Vermaelen was left out against Bayern Munich but Wenger insists the defender is an important member of the squad.

"Thomas has a fantastic attitude. He's a guy who is absolutely outstanding with his attitude and motivation," said Wenger.

"He has played many games in many positions and is a very important player in our squad.

"They know there might be rotation with the three centre-backs - Vermaelen, [Laurent] Koscielny and [Per] Mertesacker."

Goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny was replaced by Lukasz Fabianski and his impressive outing has resulted in calls for him to be picked ahead of his team-mate.

Wenger admits Szczesny was mentally exhausted following Arsenal's tough run of fixtures and admits he should have rested the Pole sooner.

"Who gave Wojciech a chance from nowhere in the youth teams? It was me because I rate him highly and have a big respect for what he has done," Wenger explained.

"But we all have ups and down physically and mentally and he has played many, many games this season, he is a young goalkeeper.

"Maybe I should have rested him in the cup games, but I did not do that."

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