Arsene Wenger is serving a three match touchline ban
Wenger, who serves the second match of his three match touchline ban, will once again be accompanied by home fan because the directors’ box is on opposite side of the ground to the dressing rooms.
The Frenchman will watch on from the corporate executive seats with rival punters – and among them his gardener.
But he recalled his own painful experience of running the gauntlet in February 2017, on a day when Arsenal lost 3-1 and his own gardener perched up next to him at the London derby.
“I must tell you that was a bad experience,” said Wenger, who was suspended at the time for his altercation with a fourth official.
“I sat next to a guy who says ‘Hello, how are you?’ I said ‘Good afternoon.’ He said, ‘I’m your gardener’.
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Arsene Wenger had an unpleasant experience the last time he sat in the Stamford Bridge stands
“I didn’t even know him. I do have a big garden. He was an Arsenal fan who went to the game at Chelsea. But it was a very uncomfortable experience.
“I was in the middle of the crowd at Chelsea because you have to go on the other side to go in the directors’ box. By the time you get around the stadium, already 10 minutes has been played. I will try to find a different place this time.”
Instead of trying to navigate his way around Chelsea’s ground, Wenger wants easy access to the dressing room before the game and at half-time to deliver his team talk.
He also plans to use first-team coach Jens Lehmann as his mouthpiece to communicate with assistant Steve Bould in the technical area.
Wenger is likely to sit in the middle tier of the East Stand where Chelsea are set to lay on stewards while Arsenal are expected to bring their own security.
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I must tell you that was a bad experience
“I can still do the pre-match in the dressing room and at half-time,” said Wenger. “After the game it’s less important. But I could miss nearly one half if it takes too much time to get to and from my seat.”
Once more he is in the stands after being given a three-match touchline ban and fined £40,000 for his abusive language in the referee’s changing room at West Brom at New Year’s Eve.
The first of those matches he served was Sunday’s 4-2 defeat at Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup and after making wholesale changes, Wenger will revert to his strongest side in order to keep Arsenal in the tie ahead of the second leg at the Emirates in a fortnight.
“I play the team who has a good chance to win, that’s what I did on Sunday, but of course we did not have the expected performance,” said Wenger.
“The problem all came from the fact that we had three games in six days and we had many players on the edge.
“Some of them, even today, I’m not sure will be usable. We had so many injuries I had no other option but to rest and find a compromise that could beat Nottingham Forest. When it doesn’t work, it backfires. We take the criticism on board of course we want to respond in a positive way.
“We killed an opportunity to win a trophy on Sunday and we have another one now and of course it is important. It’s a different game, it’s a semi-final against a big team. Psychologically the whole context will be different.
“We are not a team who can sit in our own half and wait for the 90 minutes, we are a team who has to go forward. We have not to forget that it’s part of our strength as well.”
Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil, who are refusing to sign new contracts and could leave this month, are set to start.
Arsenal stars Ozil and Sanchez are out of contract at the end of the season
Manchester City are pushing to sign Sanchez while the Chilean striker, just like Ozil, is free to talk to foreign club directly.
Wenger claims that would not prove a distraction, adding: “It’s not a big concern because I believe most of the players today want to play in the Premier League and the Premier League can pay contracts and wages that no other club – apart from three or four clubs abroad – can pay.
“Overall that is not my main concern.”
Wenger also revealed he fears losing out to the League leaders in the £25m fight for West Brom defender Jonny Evans. “When solicitations happen, you respond to it,” he said. “At the moment, it’s very quiet.”
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