ARSENAL manager Arsene Wenger admits he is taking a gamble by throwing Robin van Persie back into action in tonight’s crunch north London derby, but is toying with the idea of handing him a starting role.
Striker Van Persie is back in the squad for a match that both sides view as must-win, albeit for different reasons, after spending five months working his way back to fitness following an ankle ligament injury.
Wenger has already paid the price for rushing Cesc Fabregas, William Gallas and Andrey Arshavin back from injury too hastily, with all three suffering setbacks, and has managed the Dutchman’s return carefully.
But with Van Persie in such impressive form before his lay-off, and with Arsenal needing to beat rivals Tottenham to maintain any hope of winning the league, the Frenchman is eager to see him back spearheading the Gunners’ attack. “He will feature, he is in the squad. I haven’t picked the team yet,” said Wenger.
“When I pick a player it means that he is fit and sharp and he has worked very hard. Of course he lacks a bit of match practice but physically he is ready, he is fit.
“There is always a gamble in this kind of decision. But in his case we have been a bit more cautious because he has had more time for preparation.”
While Arsenal still entertain thoughts of snatching the title from Chelsea’s grasp, Tottenham need three points to boost their chances of qualifying for the Champions League for the first time in their history.
That task is made harder by the physical and emotional hangover of Sunday’s extra-time defeat to Portsmouth in the FA Cup semi-final, but Harry Redknapp insists his team will be ready.
“It’s a London derby, we’ll find the energy,” Redknapp said. “We’ll be okay, no excuses. We are in great form with one league defeat in 10.
“People always pick up on the negatives, we had a bad game on Sunday and it didn’t go our way, but it was just one of those days. You can’t keep looking back at what happened.”