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Arsenal’s main weapon to stay in sheath

Striker Thierry Henry is suffering from an inflamed knee and will miss Arsenal’s English Premier League title showdown with holders Man...

Written by Rex Gowar | London Colney |
May 8, 2002

Striker Thierry Henry is suffering from an inflamed knee and will miss Arsenal’s English Premier League title showdown with holders Manchester United at Old Trafford on Wednesday.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said he had not yet decided whether to play captain Tony Adams in the club’s penultimate game of the season which will see them clinch the title if they avoid defeat.

‘‘Henry is out. He has a small knee problem but he should be okay for (the final game against Everton at home on) Saturday,’’ Wenger told reporters on Tuesday.

‘‘Sylvain Wiltord will play up front. Obviously, in an ideal world we would have all the (top) players.’’

Wenger said he was unsure whether Adams would be able to stand the pace of two important games in five days. The veteran central defender played in the FA Cup final in Cardiff on Saturday in which Arsenal beat Chelsea 2-0. Arsenal, five points ahead of second-placed United, need only a draw at Old Trafford to seal the league and FA Cup double for the second time since 1998 and deny United a fourth successive title.

‘‘We have what we need in central defence — if I think weneed to rest Tony,’’ Wenger said. ‘‘But it’s Tony’s kind of game and I would love to have him out there.’’

Arsenal were beaten 6-1 at Old Trafford last season but they have already defeated United at home this term and Wenger feels that such results do not reflect teams’ true ability.

‘‘For managers such big scores don’t have any meaning, whether you win 5-0 or you lose 5-0. You’re elated (with such a victory) but ‘footballistically’ it does not show the real difference between teams.’’

Wenger’s team has yet to lose away from home in the league this season and the Frenchman said he was confident they could dig deep again on Wednesday to snatch the title from United on their home ground.

He added that not commenting on transfer speculation, like that linking key midfielder Patrick Vieira with a move to Real Madrid, had helped to strengthen team morale.

‘‘I believe it’s the right way to do things. The players want to stay, they feel they are in one of the best teams in the world,’’ he said. ‘‘But this is not a moment to be negotiating contracts, we have a big game.’’ He said that overcoming the loss of a player through injury, such as Henry on Wednesday, showed the difference between this season and last.

‘‘This season is the season of the squad, a mental strength that has kept us together,’’ Wenger said. ‘‘What relaxes me is knowing the effort the team is putting in. I have never had to ask myself this question this season. ‘‘I can go home knowing this team will give their last dropof blood for me.’’

(Reuters)

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