By Chris Harris
Arsène Wenger believes Blackpool boss Ian Holloway was within his rights to make ten changes for his side's midweek trip to Aston Villa - and he has urged managers to respect fans' opinions over so-called 'weakened' teams.
Holloway hit the headlines on Wednesday night after an extraordinary outburst in the wake of Blackpool's 3-2 defeat at Villa Park. The 37-year-old was asked if he expected to be punished for resting so many regulars after the Premier League set a precedent in January by handing Wolves a suspended £25,000 fine for the same 'offence'. Holloway reacted angrily, threatening to resign if Blackpool are sanctioned and pointing out that his club's busy schedule had forced him to make full use of his squad.
Wenger backed Holloway at his pre-match press conference on Friday, suggesting that the Premier League's new quota rules gave managers the right to rotate their squads as they pleased.
"Ian always comes out strongly and I prefer that personally," said the Frenchman.
"I don't know the rules any more exactly, so I cannot make any statement. But we are allowed only 25 players now in our squad, so you would think if you are allowed only 25, then you have to declare you can use them how you want.
"When you had 50 and you could use 50, you could say there was an opportunity sometimes to throw a game away. That is one of the few positive aspects of the 25-man squad, that you have to present decent players, which is what he did, and they gave big problems to Aston Villa."
But Wenger did offer one important caveat: managers can rotate their squad as much as they wish provided their fans do not feel short-changed.
"As a Premier League manager you have to justify a lot nowadays but what is most important is the performance of the team," he said.
"We are all in professional sport and what is the most important thing is to respect people who pay the money to watch the games. If people who bought a ticket at Aston Villa and think the game against Blackpool was a waste of money, we have to think about the problem.
"They are the decider and we must always have that in our minds. We have to respect people who pay to watch football. It is not only my opinion or the opinion of the press, it is the opinion of the people who watch the games."Copyright 2017 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source