Arsenal to rest Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey for Cologne clash
LONDON -- Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey will both be rested for Arsenal's Europa League opener against Cologne on Thursday, although manager Arsene Wenger hinted he will use a strong squad for the game.
Wenger is expected to rotate heavily as Arsenal enter the group stage of Europe's second-tier competition for the first time under the Frenchman, and with a crucial Premier League game at Chelsea on Sunday.
However, the Arsenal boss only listed Ozil and Ramsey among those who will be completely left out of his squad for Thursday.
"On the injury front we have no big problems, but a few players have some response to playing two international games -- like Ozil and Ramsey, who are rested completely," Wenger told a news conference on Wednesday.
Olivier Giroud is set to start up front as the striker chases his 100th goal for the club, while Jack Wilshere is expected to be included in the squad for the first time this season.
Wenger refused to say whether Wilshere will start, but said the midfielder is getting "stronger and stronger every day" after recovering from an ankle fracture suffered towards the end of last season while on loan at Bournemouth.
Wenger, though, urged both Wilshere and Arsenal fans to remain patient.
"I believe there was always a huge pressure on him to come back as quickly as possible and to expect a lot," Wenger said. "He has been injured at the start of the season from last season, so he was a bit behind the others players but now he is getting better and better. Every game is an opportunity for him and this season is a good opportunity for him as well."
Arsenal will also be without suspended Laurent Koscielny and the injured Francis Coquelin, who is set for three weeks out with a hamstring problem.
Giroud said that the club will do everything they can to win a European trophy despite the disappointment of missing out on the Champions League.
"Trust me, we've got a very good team on paper tomorrow," Giroud said. "We are very focused on this Europa League, we want to go and win it, we are very ambitious and I am looking forward to the game tomorrow."
Giroud netted his 99th Arsenal goal in the dramatic 4-3 win over Leicester on the opening day of the Premier League season, but has been a substitute in every game so far after losing his starting role to new signing Alexandre Lacazette.
Giroud was given the option to leave the club this summer, but said his decision to stay was based on the advice of his family -- and the feeling that he still has unfinished business at the club.
"It's true that I was close to leaving the club because I said that I wanted to play, but after a big reflection with everybody around me like my family and my close friends in a supportive way, I wanted to stay at Arsenal and I thought the story was not over," he said.
"The club gave me a lot and I [wanted to] give it back, and I still want to improve again and again and win some more trophies for the club. So as I said to the boss, our story was not finished, so everybody was pleased with that."
Mattias is ESPN FC's Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.