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May 19, 2013

Wenger: Europa League rewards 'failure'

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has criticised UEFA for rewarding 'failure' after two Champions League exiles contested this season's Europa League final.

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• Benitez proud of Europa success

Chelsea defeated Portuguese giants Benfica 2-1 in the showpiece event of Europe's second tier competition, adding the Europa League crown to the Champions League title they won last year.

However, both Chelsea and Benfica started their European adventure in the Champions League, falling short in their attempts to qualify for the knockout stages only to be handed a life-line in the Europa League.

And Wenger has pointed to the success of Arsenal's Premier League rivals, and their vanquished foe, as examples of how mediocre results could be turned into silverware.

"You have two teams in the final who were in the Champions League, their target at the start of the season was the Champions League, not to win the Europa League," said Wenger.

"We raised that question many times at UEFA: is it right to reward teams basically for failure?

"Every year now, in the Europa League, you have two teams who have been not failures, but who have been (first) in the Champions League.

"The teams who go through in the Champions League to the last 16 don't have a chance after.

"If you go out in the last 16 (of the Champions League), you don't drop into the Europa League.

"If you don't qualify (from the group stage), you have a chance of winning the Europa League.

"If I had won the Europa League like Chelsea I would have been happy as well.

"It is a trophy, but, overall, it raises the question."

Wenger said the rule that allowed teams who do not qualify from the Champions League group stage to stay alive in the Europe created an unfair balance in the Europa League.

"You can say that many teams who start the Europa League fight together, then, in the middle of the competition, some come in and suddenly they are all potential winners, but they didn't start the competition, they were in another competition," the Gunners boss said.

And despite acknowledging Chelsea's success, the Frenchman believed the Blues were given a helping hand in claiming the title.

"Congratulations to Chelsea," he said. "It looks even more fantastic because they have won the Champions League and the Europa League in two seasons, but usually that cannot happen."

Information from the Press Association was used in this report.

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