Arsene Wenger reckons most football supporters care more about the Premier League than the Champions League.
The Arsenal boss put forward the extraordinary suggestion with his club out of European football’s elite competition this season for the first time in two decades.
Asked for his thoughts on a first campaign in the Europa League, boss Wenger said: “Well for us it is a good opportunity to focus completely on the Premier League.
“But anyway, I would say that the Premier League has, in my opinion, taken over from the Champions League, interest-wise.
“It has happened in the group stage sometimes that we have rested players to prepare for the next Premier League game. Every Premier League game is so difficult.
“I would have loved to play in [the Champions League]. but we have to deal with the reality that we are not in it.”
FA Cup winners Arsenal open the new season on Sunday with a face-off against champions Chelsea in the Community Shield .
The Gunners ended last season with 75 points, which would have been enough for Champions League football at the end of the previous two campaigns.
Instead, they finished only fifth — a massive 18 points behind Antonio Conte’s title winners.
Wenger has insisted he will take every game in the Europa League seriously — but contradicted himself on Thursday by admitting he will use the tournament to rest players whenever he can.
He went on: “I will always play a team that has a good chance to win the next game.
“In the Europa League, if we can afford sometimes to rest some players we will do it. But we have to adapt to the level of the competition and see first what kind of group we play in.”
Wenger admits he is trying to avoid committing footballing ‘suicide’ in his bid to keep Alexis Sanchez at Arsenal.
The Chilean has 12 months left on his contract and wants to play Champions League football this season. Wenger has vetoed his exit in the current window and wants him to sign a new deal.
Asked whether Sanchez is interested in that scenario, Wenger said: “That is, again, something that I do not want to come back on.
“We know we have a duty to inform people, but to talk about some things is not information anymore – it is suicide. Every negotiation has to be a little bit secret. The transparency of society is very pushy but we have to resist a little bit, as much as we can.”
Sanchez, 28, trained with his team-mates as normal amid well-documented interest from Manchester City and Chelsea.
Wenger added: “I will not give anything away on that but the only thing I can tell you is that he is focused, and my decision is clear: he will stay and he will respect that.
“It is as simple as that.”