As AC Milan clash looms, the race is on to get van Persie fit
by Jem Maidment Robin van Persie could be set to lift the doom and gloom surrounding the Emirates after Eduardo s sickening end to the season and two drawn Premier League games with a timely return to action for the do-or-die trip to AC Milan. Arsene Wenger has vowed not
Robin van Persie could be set to lift the doom and gloom surrounding the Emirates after Eduardo's sickening end to the season and two drawn Premier League games with a timely return to action for the do-or-die trip to AC Milan.
Arsene Wenger has vowed not to rush back the injury-prone Netherlands attacker, but with Eduardo now expected to be out until December, and a place in the last eight of the Champions League at stake, the Arsenal manager's striking options are all of a sudden looking rather threadbare.
Leading scorer Emmanuel Adebayor is, by his standards, experiencing a mini-drought, failing to score in his past four games - how he must rue his stoppage time miss from a yard out in the first leg against Carlo Ancelotti's side.
Nicklas Bendtner's dry spell had extended to two months before he came off the bench and grabbed a last-gasp equaliser against Aston Villa on Saturday and although Theo Walcott bagged a brace at Birmingham last week, he has netted just five times all season.
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His pace against the ageing Milanese could prove a vital outlet at San Siro if Wenger opts to start with the England U21 forward.
Meanwhile, van Persie's condition is being closely monitored at London Colney after playing just 45 minutes since December 16 - last appearing for the Gunners in the1-1 draw with Tottenham in the first leg of the Carling Cup semi-final at the Emirates.
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But a recurrence of a muscle injury saw him replaced at half-time and since then he has been on the treatment table and in the stands.
It's another unsatisfactory season for the talented Dutchman who missed half of last term through injury, although he still finished the club's top scorer with 13 goals.
This campaign he started in stunning form before his old injury problems, also familiar to his previous followers at Feyenoord, quickly resurfaced.
But he is now back in full training and Wenger - who expects to welcome back Kolo Toure for the trip to Italy after a thigh strain - said after the 0-0 home leg with Milan: "Robin is not a very long away from being fit at all, but he lacks match practice.
"Could he be in the squad for Milan? Maybe. But don't forget he has not played regularly for five months now."
He will be reassessing his view as Arsenal physio Gary Lewin surveys the damage to Eduardo's shattered left ankle this week.
Milan may be relieved not to have to face Eduardo, but they still showed their class before he was even in surgery at Birmingham's Selly Oak hospital.
"The Rossoneri family wishes the Arsenal striker all the best and a quick return to playing," read a statement from the Milanese on Saturday evening under the title "Come On Eduardo."
It was a nice touch from a club that prides itself on its family image, but that attitude will harden towards Eduardo's team-mates for 90 minutes on Tuesday evening with a quarter-final place up for grabs.