Aug 5 (Reuters) - Arsenal’s failure to qualify for the Champions League will allow them to focus their attention this season on winning the Premier League for the first time since 2004, manager Arsene Wenger has said.
The Frenchman noted in May that the two most recent league champions - Chelsea and Leicester City - did not play European football during their title-winning campaigns.
“For us it is a good opportunity to focus completely on the Premier League,” Wenger told British media.
“I would say that the Premier League has, in my opinion, taken over from the Champions League interest-wise.”
Arsenal’s fifth-placed finish last season meant they missed out on the Champions League for the first time in 20 years and they will play in the less prestigious Europa League instead.
“I will always play a team that has a good chance to win the next game,” Wenger added.
“In the Europa League, if we can afford sometimes to rest some players we will do it. But we have to adapt to the level of the competition and see first what kind of group we play in.”
Arsenal beat league champions Chelsea in May’s FA Cup final and so on Sunday the London rivals will face each other again in the traditional season-opener, the Community Shield.
Wenger expects Antonio Conte’s side to have a tougher time retaining the league title than they did winning it last season without the distraction of Champions League football.
“Last year, Chelsea did not play in the European Cup and, certainly, they were a bit more consistent in the Premier League,” Wenger added.
“Will they make as many points? I don’t know. But they will fight certainly for the championship again.
“And in the FA Cup final we have shown that the gap was not as high maybe. And we have to show that again on Sunday.” (Reporting by Aditi Prakash in Bengaluru, editing by Nick Mulvenney)