Football: Wenger warns Arsenal against Gascoigne's art

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The Independent Online
BEWARE PAUL GASCOIGNE is the message from Arsene Wenger to his makeshift Arsenal team that will face Middlesbrough in the fourth round of the Worthington Cup tonight.

Gascoigne cut a sad, almost anonymous figure at Highbury 10 days ago when Boro were trounced 5-1 in the Premiership in what was his first Boro start for two months. He was back on the bench for Saturday's goalless home draw with Wimbledon.

Wenger, however, does not go along with the often voiced theory that Gascoigne is a spent force. He said: "I certainly don't think he is finished. What can keep him up is his passion for the game and his desire. He has always been a passionate player and when he walked on to the pitch at Highbury last week I thought his shape looked quite good. But what he needs now is to be injury free. At his age he cannot expect to go in and out of the side and do well."

Wenger will have to make do tonight without Dennis Bergkamp and Lee Dixon, who have groin strains, and Martin Keown and David Seaman, who have calf muscle problems. He will rest Emmanuel Petit, who has been playing with the despite knee ligament damage that kept him out for nearly three months earlier this season, as well as his captain, Tony Adams, and the Dutch winger, Marc Overmars.

With the Nigerian striker Nwankwo Kanu doubtful because of a virus, Patrick Vieira and Fredrik Ljungberg suspended and Stephen Hughes cup-tied, Wenger could give a debut to Jermaine Pennant, the teenage winger who will eventually cost Arsenal close to pounds 2m after joining them from Notts County last season.

Middlesbrough are certainly intent on avenging their recent defeat, as their manager, Bryan Robson, stressed.

"There's no such thing as an easy game and they don't come much tougher than Arsenal, but it's a good one for us to bounce back in because it was a poor performance at the weekend," he said. "Arsenal have played really well against us the last twice we've met, but it's more about our attitude. We've got to be right up for the game."

Robson had hoped to have Gary Pallister in the squad but his central defender's long-standing back injury forced him to pull out after training and Robson seems likely to continue with the bulk of the side that started against Wimbledon.

West Ham's manager, Harry Redknapp, pledged his team would take the Worthington Cup as seriously as ever ahead of their fourth-round match against Birmingham.

"We entered it to try and win it," Redknapp said. "We don't play again till next Monday, so we want to give it a real go. Even if I shuffle one or two around, we'll still have a strong side whoever I put out."

Redknapp may make one or two changes from the team that ended Liverpool's unbeaten run at Upton Park on Saturday, with Scott Minto and Gary Charles coming into contention after long injury lay-offs.

His Birmingham counterpart, Trevor Francis, is having to contend with the worst injury crisis of his career. He does not have a single recognised striker fit and has 11 first-teamers on the casualty list. His plight worsened yesterday when it was revealed his last fit forward, Dele Adebola, had torn a calf muscle against Swindon and will be out for about a month. Sunderland's on-loan winger, Allan Johnston, will have to play in a central striking role, with Francis considering using a defender alongside him.