Arsenal boss defends himself

Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott start only in cup ties at Arsenal right now but Arsene Wenger has denied he is treating them as second-class players.

The two men could be forgiven for having the World Cup on their minds instead of tonight's dead rubber of a Europa League tie at home to BATE Borisov. Walcott is out of the England picture because of a lack of significant game time and Giroud has been warned a similar fate could await him by Guy Stephan, Didier Deschamps' right-hand man in the France camp. Giroud and Walcott have 638 Arsenal appearances between them, plus a total of 116 international caps, yet neither has been on the pitch at the beginning of a Premier League game this season.

Wenger has continued to pick Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil for league games despite the fact that both remain on course to be free agents at the end of the season, while the £52m arrival of Alexandre Lacazette has supplanted Giroud. Yet Wenger argued that he and Walcott had no cause to feel they were now bit-part players.

-They shouldn’t. Because that’s not how I see it. Even inside the camp the other players have a respect for them. But sometimes the outside environment makes them look like that. When the team does well you keep a certain consistency. That doesn’t mean that the players who do not play, you respect them less. You respect people through their attitude and their attitude is fantastic. When you pick a team you do not necessarily look how long a contract is. The shorter the contract is, the more hungry the players are usually. The hunger index drops with the length of the contract, he said.

Especially if a player is trying to secure a lucrative one elsewhere perhaps, but Wenger made it clear he would not let Walcott or Giroud leave in January to boost their chances of reaching Russia.