Football: Bergkamp fears unwanted break

Glenn Moore finds Arsenal's Dutch craftsman happy with sporting life in England despite his impending suspension
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Dennis Bergkamp yesterday began almost a month in the shadows, wondering whether a moment's madness would put an end to the best form of his Arsenal career.

Bergkamp, who has scored breathtaking goals in each of Arsenal's last two matches, is suspended for their next three. It is his punishment for being sent off for a rash tackle on Sunderland's Paul Bracewell on 11 January. With FA Cup replays and England's match with Italy complicating the schedule, it means he will not play again until 15 February.

"It was a silly foul but I was surprised to be sent off," he said somewhat ruefully yesterday. "It was my first tackle.

"The suspension could be a problem. Apart from injury I have never been out for so long before. I have only been suspended once before, for one match with Ajax after I was sent off for two handballs in the same game.

"I will try something in training but it is difficult. It is not the same as playing matches. You saw with Ian Wright [against Everton] on Sunday, he trained hard but when he came on he lasted only half a match. It will be difficult to be in the same form when I come back.

"It is a pity because this is the best form I have been in since I was at Ajax." Bergkamp, who has scored seven times for Arsenal this season, added: "I still feel I can do better, I should score more goals with the chances I have had. There is more to come from me.

"This season has been better for me because I have got used to the team, it is easier for me to find them and them to find me. English football is more difficult than it looks. When you see it on television you think it must be easy because there is so much space but, when you play in it, it is very tough to keep up with the pace.

"That makes it more difficult than in Italy. People here expect forwards to do other things, not just wait up front for the chance, for the moment. They want you to work for the team.

"But I would think that players like Vialli and Ravanelli would do well here because they are strikers who keep running. Maybe they have found the pace hard, it is why I have suffered more injuries than I did with Ajax or Inter."

Given a month without matches, many foreign players would be tempted to head home, but Bergkamp and his family are staying in their leafy home just north of the capital in M25 country.

"I have no wish to go to Holland," he said. "I feel OK here. It is better to stay with the team and keep together, especially when we are going well.

"It is hard to say if we can win the championship. We have just had a good game [the 3-1 victory over Everton on Sunday] so everybody is feeling positive. The championship is the highest achievement you can win, it is over a season - cups you can lose through one bad game."

Bergkamp, who won league titles with Ajax but not Internazionale, added: "The English championship is right up there with the Italian one. It is easier in Holland.

"Liverpool and Manchester United are our strongest challengers. They have to come here, all the top teams have to. That could be a problem for them. We have to win those games and make Highbury a place that other teams are scared to play at."

Bergkamp collected his third man of the match award on Sunday and Arsene Wenger, the Arenal manager, noted wryly: "Every time he comes in the dressing- room, he has a bottle of champagne with him. He has enough to open a shop."

The Dutchman may be better advised to keep the champagne bottles on ice. They may come in handy at the end of the season.