Bendtner adds to Wenger's woes

Arsenal face being without three key players when they start their Premier League campaign with the difficult trip to Liverpool in just over two weeks' time. Striker Nicklas Bendtner is definitely out with a groin injury, while both Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie do not return to training until next Thursday after featuring in the World Cup final for Spain and the Netherlands respectively.

Bendtner had a groin operation back in November but this failed to clear up the problem completely and he struggled for fitness while playing for Denmark in the World Cup last month. Now the Arsenal manager, Arsène Wenger, has confirmed that the 22-year-old forward will miss the big kick-off.

"Bendtner will not be available for the start of the season," Wenger said. "Fabregas and Van Persie are due to come back on 5 August and from then on we will see how much build-up work is needed physically and as well how they have recovered mentally from the World Cup.

"They might be short for the first game [of the season] but I don't know, that will depend on the fitness work they have done during the holiday."

If both Bendtner and Van Persie are unavailable for the game at Anfield on 15 August, the onus will be on new signing Marouane Chamakh to lead the Arsenal attack if Wenger persists with the 4-3-3 formation he favoured last season. At least the free transfer from Bordeaux opened his Gunners account with a penalty in the 4-0 win over SC Neusiedl 1919 in Austria on Tuesday night. Theo Walcott, Jay Emmanuel-Thomas and Carlos Vela got the other goals.

However there were other injury problems to concern Wenger. Johan Djourou suffered a hamstring injury while Tomas Rosicky missed the match with a groin problem.

"Djourou has a small hamstring problem but it is not bad," Wenger added. "Rosicky had a small, small alert. He was supposed to play in the first half. He could have played. I didn't want to take the gamble."

Meanwhile, Wenger has sought to draw a line under Barcelona's protracted pursuit of Fabregas. "I am very happy with Cesc and we are all very happy at the club with Cesc," the manager said. "He is a very important player for us, he is our captain and we have worked very hard [for him] to be the future of our team and that is why we are always adamant about [not] letting him go."

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