‘Gun­ners can fire without Van Per­sie’

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - GOODWINES - BY ALEC KENNEDY

ARSENE WENGER has shrugged off claims that the loss of Robin van Per­sie will fun­da­men­tally un­der mine Arse­nal’s chances of clos­ing the gap on Premier League leaders Chelsea.

Wenger’s side cur­rently lie sec­ond, five points be­hind Carlo Ancelotti’s team, and travel to face Sun­der­land without the Dutch striker who suf­fered an­kle lig­a­ment dam­age in Hol­land’s in­ter na­tional friendly with Italy.

Van Per­sie is ex­pected to be out for six weeks and his ab­sence un­doubt­edly comes as a blow to the Gun­ners who went into the in­ter­na­tional break on the back of a 13-game un­beaten run.

The for­ward’s con­tri­bu­tion to that se­quence of re­sults has been im­mense with Van Per­sie adapt­ing ef­fec­tively to a new role this sea­son that has seen him op­er­ate as the cen­tral fig­ure in a front three.

With Nick­las Bendt­ner also in­jured, there is no ob­vi­ous re­place­ment to fill the role al­though Ed­uardo, the Croa­tia for­ward, has made it clear he would like the op­por­tu­nity to make the po­si­tion his own.

Wenger has so far re­fused to in­di­cate who will re­place Van Per­sie, but he is con­fi­dent he has suf­fi­cient cover in his squad and is sim­ply re­lieved not to have lost his main striker for a longer pe­riod.

“We knew that when Robin came out with this in­jury, that he would be out for a long time,” Wenger said. “But frankly I feared it would be more be­cause the first news was very, very bad.

“Of course it is a dis­ap­point­ment and some­thing we did not want but I feel we have enough strength to com­pen­sate for his ab­sence. It will also al­low him to be fresh for when he comes back.”

While Arse­nal’s re­cent run has at­tracted plenty of plau­dits to counter the crit­i­cism that fol­lowed suc­ces­sive away de­feats to Manch­ester United and Manch­ester City ear­lier in the cam­paign, they have largely faced teams they would nor­mally ex­pect to beat.

The next two league games, the trip to Sun­der­land and the visit of Chelsea to the Emi­rates Sta­dium, will re­veal a lot more about their abil­ity to main­tain a ti­tle chal­lenge through­out the sea­son.

Steve Bruce’s Sun­der­land side are one of the divi­sion’s most im­proved sides but the man­ager con­cedes the visit of Arse­nal marks one of the most chal­leng­ing games of the sea­son.

“We’ve played well over the last few weeks without ac­cu­mu­lat­ing many points and we’re cer­tainly go­ing to have to repli­cate that level of per­for­mance against an Arse­nal side who I think have scored more away goals than any­one

MAIN MAN: Ed­uardo, seen bat­tling here against Wi­gan, wants main striker role.

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