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Paris St Germain v Arsenal: My love for Gunners led me to reject PSG - Wenger

Paris St G v Arsenal, Champions League Group A: Parc des Princes, tonight, 7.45pm

By Mark Mann-Bryans

Published 13/09/2016

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger
On the run: Arsenal’s Santi Cazorla and Mesut Ozil train in London ahead of the Champions League clash with PSG

Arsene Wenger has reiterated that it is his love for Arsenal which has stopped him taking the managerial job at Paris St Germain, despite continued interest from the French club's owners.

The 66-year-old takes his Arsenal side to face PSG in their opening Champions League Group A fixture tonight as he closes in on 20 years in charge of the Gunners.

October will mark Wenger's big milestone, but in recent years he has become a target for PSG and their wealthy backers, Qatari Sports Investments.

According to L'Equipe they have tried three times to recruit Wenger but were knocked back in 2011, 2013 and 2014 as he opted to remain at the Emirates Stadium - despite enduring a decade-long drought without silverware in recent times, which was ended with back-to-back FA Cup wins.

And Wenger insists it is his passion for Arsenal which has kept him in north London rather than take him back to his homeland. Asked why he had not said yes to any of PSG's overtures, he replied: "Because I love where I am.

"I know the owners (of PSG) well, but I feel I always remained loyal to Arsenal Football Club because I think it's a club with the qualities I love. That's why.

"I like to come to Paris. It's a city I love, it's my country, a country I love. PSG are a good test for us. They're a team who are, in France, the team above everyone else.

"In France they always produce good football teams and players, so it's exciting to come to this city and see where we are this season compared to everyone else."

Current PSG boss Unai Emery has seen his start to life at the club begin with a stutter and the Ligue 1 champions sit seventh after taking one point from their last two outings.

The former Sevilla coach, who delivered three successive Europa League titles at Sevilla before leaving in the summer, declared his admiration for Wenger ahead of the meeting tonight.

And despite PSG's relatively poor start to the season, Wenger is expecting a tough test as he looks to guide Arsenal into the last 16 of the Champions League for the 17th consecutive season.

"I think PSG were missing a number of players (in recent games)," he said.

"They had certain players who joined up a bit later, like us. Similar problems to the ones we face, but we'll see.

"I think they missed a number of players at the back. They were at the same hotel as us in Los Angeles and Thiago Silva got injured there. He's an important player for them.

"But they're clearly superior in the domestic league, so I expect a slightly different PSG in the Champions League."

PSG skipper Thiago has yet to feature this season after the injury suffered against Real Madrid in the friendly in the United States, but Emery hopes he could feature against the Gunners.

Arsenal, too, have been given a defensive boost with the news Laurent Koscielny should be fit to take his place at the Parc des Princes.

The 31-year-old suffered a facial injury in Saturday's 2-1 win over Southampton having drawn the Gunners level with a superb overhead kick on his birthday.

But Wenger has confirmed he will be available and lauded him as one of the best defenders in the game.

"I'd like to say yes," he replied when asked if Koscielny was one of the best defenders in the world.

"No one is indispensable, but he has taken on a new status with us. He has experience, self-confidence.

"He's always had talent, and that hasn't always been recognised in France because he left Lorient, which is not such a big club.

"So he didn't have the reputation he deserved. But he's made his name in English football. I think he's one of the best in the world. I hope he proves that against PSG."

Belfast Telegraph

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