19 Mar 2015

Arsene Wenger calls for scrapping of away goals rule in Champions League

Arsène Wenger is resisting the sense of crisis over English football’s collective exit from the Champions League. Although this is the second time in three years that the quarter-finals will be drawn with no English presence, the Arsenal manager’s analysis boiled down to Manchester City’s bad luck to be drawn against a breathtaking Barcelona, and Arsenal and Chelsea succumbing via the away goals rule.

That rule has frustrated him for a while. Wenger certainly did not go into it as an excuse for Arsenal’s particular failings – the blame for that lay squarely at their shortcomings in the first-leg defeat against Monaco – but as a long-time advocate for it to be scrapped he is not shy of the debate.
“Two teams have gone out on away goals, which I think should be questioned because it’s a rule that is outdated now and that has to be changed,” he said.

“I’ve fought for that for a long time. In a direct knockout, it’s important that you’re very efficient and a bit lucky as well. None of the teams, apart from Barcelona, look to be superior in Europe today. Two other teams, Chelsea and Arsenal, could have gone through. This rule has been created in the 60s to encourage the teams to attack away from home. Since that football has changed. The weight of the away goal is too big today.”
Wenger clarified a remark from his post-match press conference which suggested he preferred the Europa League to the Champions League in terms of a long run in contentinal competition. “It is better that we are in the Champions League. It is as simple as that. It was just a little joke I made in French. To stay in Europe, you want to be in the Champions League and nowhere else.
“I think that the quality of the Premier League is very high and that physical demands are extreme. I’m not in the mood today to analyse too much what was wrong for English football; I don’t think there is a lot wrong,” he said.

On the subject of moods, Wenger added that the camp was “down and disappointed” on the back of their Champions League exit. “It’s quite strange at the moment because we feel we are on a positive trend, but we have paid by being out.”
Credit: Amy Lawrence/Guardian Sport

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