By Chris Harris

The image of Robert Pires would have flashed through the minds of many Arsenal fans as soon as their team were paired with Villarreal at Friday's Champions League draw.

The French star graced Highbury for six years, scoring 84 goals in 284 appearances. He left behind a treasure trove of memories when he left in the summer of 2006 and his career has enjoyed an Indian summer at Villarreal. With Pires in the side the Yellow Submarine finished runners-up in last season's Primera Liga.

The former Arsenal favourite is guaranteed a warm reception when he returns to North London for the second leg of a mouthwatering Quarter-Final on April 15. Pires is 35 now but Wenger is well aware of his compatriot's enduring quality.

"It is an interesting case," said Wenger.

"We have to keep him quiet because he is a guy who can make a difference. I still have him on the phone many times - recently. He is playing very well, he was born in 1973, he is 36 in 2009 and he is still playing so that shows you what a fantastic player he is.

"I offered him [a chance to stay at Arsenal in 2006] but he wanted to play regularly," added Wenger.

"When you get to 33 or 34 I can still use players of that age here but when you look at our fixtures you have to get players at that age to come off the bench, come in, go out, and it is not easy. It's very difficult mentally, at 20 it is easy."

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20 Mar 2009