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Monday 18 December 2017

Wenger - 'No mind games in Lacazette call'

Arsenal striker Alexandre Lacazette
Arsenal striker Alexandre Lacazette

Arsene Wenger insists he was not deploying mind games by naming Alexandre Lacazette in his Arsenal side to face Manchester United despite having ruled out the striker due to a groin injury.

The France international was a shock inclusion in the 3-1 defeat to the Red Devils after Wenger had categorically stated he would miss the game after limping out of the midweek victory over Huddersfield at half-time.

Instead, Lacazette was named in an Arsenal side that slipped to a first defeat at the Emirates Stadium since March and scored the consolation goal as Jose Mourinho's United left north London with all three points.

Mourinho made a pointed jibe towards Wenger when asked about his team news ahead of Sunday's derby against early Premier League pace-setters Manchester City.

"I'm telling the truth," Mourinho said when listing the availability of some of his players. "It's the truth, eh? No stories of Lacazette or (Manchester City midfielder) David Silva. All the truth."

Wenger, speaking ahead of Arsenal's final Europa League group game at home to BATE Borisov tonight (Live BT Sport, kick-off 8.05pm), was asked about Mourinho's comments and said he was genuinely expecting to go into the United game without his club-record signing.

"I thought he wouldn't play," he said. "In the end, he could play. What did you want me to do, leave him at home?

"I'm always honest. I thought really that he wouldn't play, that's what I had been told. After, he had a test on Friday morning and went to the game. We weren't sure he would play but he tried and he played, that's part of football."

The Gunners welcome Belarusian Premier League champions BATE tonight having already sealed top spot in Group H.

Wenger has made mass changes throughout the competition, handing valuable game time to the likes of Theo Walcott, Jack Wilshere and Olivier Giroud.

Even though progression into the last 32 has been assured, the Frenchman still intends to play those on the fringes of the first-team, rather than blood a team of youngsters in what is all-but a dead rubber for the hosts.

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