Bendtner: February big month for Arsenal

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The Independent Football

Nicklas Bendtner admits Arsenal are now facing a month of games which could make or break their season.

The Gunners resume their Barclays Premier League title challenge at home to Everton tomorrow night, aiming to keep within striking distance of leaders Manchester United, currently five points ahead.

While an action-packed January saw Arsene Wenger's men continue their interest in both the domestic knockout competitions, yesterday's 2-1 FA Cup fourth-round victory over Huddersfield came at a cost when influential midfielder Samir Nasri picked up a hamstring injury which is set to rule him out of the first leg of the Champions League showdown with Barcelona.

Just a few days after that mouthwatering European tie, Arsenal will travel to Leyton Orient looking to move into the last eight of the FA Cup before then heading to Wembley for the Carling Cup final against Birmingham.

Bendtner knows with another packed fixture schedule ahead, there is little room for error.

"This next month is a bit of a decider," said the Denmark forward, whose deflected goal put Arsenal ahead against the Terriers, only for them to later need a late Cesc Fabregas penalty to see off the challenge of the npower League One side.

"Two cups will be decided and there are matches which will have a massive influence on the Premier League as well.

"February is a big month for us and at the end of it we will see where we are at. Hopefully it will all look fantastic."

First and foremost, though, Arsenal's battle-weary squad must recover quickly to take on an Everton side who have proved hard to beat away from home this season.

"It is always difficult to play again so quickly. We have played a lot of games, but we are sportsmen and this is what we have to do," Bendtner said.

"We have to be up for the challenge and be ready."

Bendtner, though, maintains Arsenal have developed a new-found resolve this season.

"People have said before that if we were not at our best games would end in draws," the 23-year-old continued.

"This season we have turned those question marks into victories, and that is what is making us stronger game by game."

Wenger feels Nasri's absence will be a "big blow".

Bendtner has challenged the rest of the squad to fill the void.

"Samir has been very important and scored some great goals. He can win games by himself, so obviously we will miss him - but someone else will have to step up and take his place," the striker said.

Denilson also suffered a hamstring problem against Huddersfield, but, with his side already down to 10 men and all the substitutes used, played on.

The midfielder, though, is hopeful he will be back in a matter of days.

Nevertheless Wenger is now likely to see if he can recall a couple of players from their loan spells, like Jay Emmanuel-Thomas at Cardiff and Henri Lansbury, who is away at Norwich.

Reports in Poland, meanwhile, have suggested goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski may need surgery on his shoulder injury - which makes the return to fitness of former number one Manuel Almunia, who produced a couple of good saves yesterday, a timely boost.

Wenger maintained he did not expect to bring in any new faces ahead of the closure of the transfer window, with Sebastien Squillaci providing defensive cover now he is back from a hamstring injury, although he will be suspended tomorrow following his red card against Huddersfield.

Elsewhere, a deal for Southampton teenager Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is still in the pipeline, but now likely to be made in the summer.

For Huddersfield, meanwhile, the focus is very much on just one aim - promotion to the Championship.

"The lads really troubled one of the best teams in Europe and we need to kick on from here now," said striker Alan Lee, whose second-half header was his first goal for the Terriers.

"We are very lucky to have the set-up we have at the club and we're going in the right direction.

"Now we just need to get to the next step - to be winning promotion."