Arsenal manager Wenger admits Bellamy attraction

Arsenal, who host bottom club Portsmouth tonight, may bid for fiery City striker
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The Independent Football

Arsene Wenger has refused to rule out an audacious move next month for Manchester City striker Craig Bellamy. On the day that one of his long-term targets, Bordeaux's Marouane Chamakh, said he would not be moving to the Emirates, the Arsenal manager admitted he would like to bring in Bellamy but fears he will not succeed.

Wenger desperately needs to strengthen his forward options after losing Robin van Persie for the rest of the season because of an ankle injury. Bellamy was outstanding for City in their 3-0 victory over Wolves on Monday night, but after initial allegiance to previous manager Mark Hughes, the Welshman has recommitted himself to the club and Roberto Mancini.

When questioned about the rumours, Wenger refused to dismiss them out of hand. "I like the player but I've not done anything," he said. Asked if he is going to make a bid, he replied: "I don't think we can buy players from City." Bellamy is one of then most controversial figures in the Premier League, with a charge sheet that includes squaring up to Newcastle coach John Carver at an airport in 2004, accusing Graeme Souness, his manager at Newcastle, of lying in 2005 and swinging a golf club at Liverpool team-mate John Arne Riise in 2007. But Wenger is known to be among his admirers, the forward's determination to win and pace attracting him.

Chamakh, meanwhile, insisted he will stay with the French Ligue 1 champions until the end of the season. "I'm going to finish my season at Bordeaux," he told France Football. "I don't want to relive what I lived through last summer.

"I don't want to see my name circulating during the transfer window. I've had enough of reading or hearing rumours that they are lacking a centre-forward somewhere." Chamakh has been linked with a transfer to Arsenal since last summer, and his contract expires at the end of the season, after which the Morocco striker will be able to leave on a free transfer.

The attraction to Bellamy is understandable: he is already playing in the Premier League and would be available for the Champions League knockout stages. But Mancini, the new City manager, has stated his desire to keep Bellamy and the player's wages of £90,000 a week could prove a sticking point for Arsenal. Wenger has most of the £41m received from City in the summer for Kolo Touré and Emmanuel Adebayor to spend. Other strikers the club are interested in include Toulouse's Andre-Pierre Gignac and Carlton Cole of West Ham.

Arsenal travel to Portsmouth tonight knowing a victory would put them four points behind leaders Chelsea with a game in hand. Sunday's 3-0 victory over Aston Villa put Wenger's young team back in touch with the pacesetters, but their reliance on captain Cesc Fabregas, who scored twice in a 27-minute appearance before being substituted with a recurrence of a hamstring injury, demonstrated the need for Wenger to recruit a new striker in the January window.

Win tonight, and next week's game in hand against Bolton, and Arsenal will be just one point behind their rivals. It is a remarkable turnaround from a month ago, when Chelsea won 3-0 at The Emirates to open up an 11-point gap. At the time Wenger was criticised for being a sore loser, when he said of Chelsea: "This team can still drop points. I'm convinced of that."

The events of the past month have proved him right, as Chelsea's lead has dwindled. The Arsenal manager refused to elaborate on what he saw in Chelsea's performance that suggested they were so vulnerable. "There are two conclusions," he said yesterday. "One, football changes very quickly, and two, sometimes, I am right."

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