By Chris Harris
Arsène Wenger feels he had no choice but to replace Robert Pires at the 2006 Champions League Final.
The Frenchman effectively brought his compatriot's Arsenal career to a premature close when he substituted the midfielder after 17 minutes of that Paris encounter with Barcelona. Pires was sacrificed as goalkeeper Manuel Almunia entered the fray in the wake of Jens Lehmann's sending off.
Pires left the Club not long after that European showpiece but, at 35, he is still going strong for Villarreal in Spain. The French star's frustration at his withdrawal in Paris is well-documented but Wenger, preparing to face the former Gunner in the Champions League on Tuesday night, believes his hands were tied tactically.
"I feel sorry for having done it, sorry for him," said Wenger.
"But I had to take one offensive player out without taking [Thierry] Henry out because we had to play on the counter-attack. You keep your strongest, quickest player in the team on the pitch.
"Maybe [I regret it], it’s very difficult to say. We were left with Hleb and Fabregas, who were offensive, Ljungberg as well – then Gilberto. We had already one defender left in there."Copyright 2013 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 6 Apr 2009