Football: Wenger troubled by lack of goals

ARSENAL'S ATTEMPT to retain their Premiership title is once again being undermined by strike problems. Not only is Nicolas Anelka likely to be out for at least three weeks but they have limited options for today's trip to Charlton.

With Christopher Wreh failing to provide the answers to their problems up front against West Ham, Fabian Caballero suspended and the winger Marc Overmars never quite as comfortable through the middle, Arsene Wenger's problems appear to be lack of strength-in-depth up front.

Nigel Winterburn is ready to return at full-back at Charlton after being an unused substitute against West Ham following injury, although David Seaman, Stephen Hughes, Tony Adams and Fredrik Ljungberg are still out.

Wenger may think he has problems, but they are nothing compared to his opposite number, Alan Curbishley, who, in a bizarre twist to his problems, claims player power is preventing him splashing out on new talent. Curbishley is also facing a striker crisis - he was missing both first-choice forwards for defeat at Wimbledon on Saturday - but has not raided his estimated transfer kitty of pounds 2.5m.

The Charlton manager is worried that any new signings' wage demands will upset the players already at the Valley. Curbishley said: "If we spend money on a new player it needs to be someone who can give the whole team a boost. I'm not happy if the players are uncomfortable with the fees and wages I'm paying to new signings."

Charlton have off-loaded Eric Wynalda, the United States striker, after a trial period at The Valley. They will be bolstered with the expected return of Andy Hunt for the London derby, but another striker, Clive Mendonca, is doubtful.

The Middlesbrough manager, Bryan Robson, will go into the game at Derby without the central defender Gary Pallister, who aggravated a heel injury during Saturday's 3-1 defeat by Liverpool, and he is likely to be replaced by Curtis Fleming. The Derby manager, Jim Smith, will be without Rory Delap, who went off at Goodison Park with knee ligament trouble and the Croatian defender Igor Stimac is still not fit enough to return. However, Jacob Laursen, who was also substituted, will be fit to play after a minor leg injury.

Walter Smith, the Everton manager, has instructed his team they must stop the Frenchman, David Ginola, if they are to get a result at Tottenham. "He's a terrific footballer. He's a difficult player to stop when he's on his game, but you can be certain we will be trying our best to keep him quiet," Smith said. Tottenham have the option of recalling Steffen Iversen to bolster an attack which was again shot-shy.

Blackburn are struggling to put together a full-strength side for their trip to play Leicester at Filbert Street. As well as being without Chris Sutton, who sustained a knee injury in the 2-1 win over Aston Villa, and Stephane Henchoz, who limped off after 45 minutes with an Achilles injury, their manager Brian Kidd is still waiting on news of virus victims Nathan Blake and Darren Peacock. For Leicester, Muzzy Izzet looks set to miss the game with a recurrence of an ankle injury.

Robbie Fowler, whom the Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier insists is not for sale despite the interest of Arsenal, is a doubt for the visit of Newcastle. But there could be a return to the starting line-up for Steve McManaman, who played 14 minutes as a substitute in the win at Middlesbrough.

The Newcastle manager, Ruud Gullit, is likely to be missing Warren Barton, who has been playing at left-back in recent weeks, and Aaron Hughes, who replaced Barton after 51 minutes against Leeds, looks favourite to step in.

The West Ham manager, Harry Redknapp, is likely to stick with his misfiring strikeforce of Ian Wright and John Hartson for the home game against Coventry, particularly as the Hammers are another side suffering injury headaches.

Redknapp has lost the wing-back Marc Keller for several weeks with a hamstring problem. The Coventry goalkeeper Magnus Hedman is expected to return if he has shaken off the effects of a migraine which meant a recall for the veteran, Steve Ogrizovic, on Saturday.

Marlon Harewood is likely to return for Nottingham Forest and replace the suspended Pierre van Hooijdonk at home to Southampton. The Forest manager, Dave Bassett, is hopeful flu victims Jon Olav Hjelde and Scot Gemmill will be able to play, while Southampton are set to be without Matt Le Tissier, who has a calf injury.

The Aston Villa manager John Gregory will be without midfielder Alan Thompson, who is serving a one-match suspension, for their game at home to Sheffield Wednesday and Mark Draper is set to deputise.

Benito Carbone, suspended on Saturday, will return for Wednesday in place of Ritchie Humphreys.

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