Reyes given leading role in attack on the Trolls

Click to follow
The Independent Online

As if not to be outdone by the hype surrounding Wayne Rooney, Arsène Wenger yesterday claimed that the expectations on his own protégé, Jose Antonio Reyes, were the same as those faced by the Manchester United teenager.

As if not to be outdone by the hype surrounding Wayne Rooney, Arsène Wenger yesterday claimed that the expectations on his own protégé, Jose Antonio Reyes, were the same as those faced by the Manchester United teenager.

"He has been fantastic," the Arsenal manager said of the 21- year-old Spaniard who is due to lead the attack tonight alongside Thierry Henry in the Champions' League Group E encounter with Rosenborg. "It is a problem that people expect too much of him at a young age," Wenger added. "He is in a Rooney situation as well. Everyone expects Rooney to play and make a difference. That is what everyone expects from Rooney - that he will score in every game. That is what everyone expects from Reyes but football is not like that."

Nevertheless Reyes has scored six times this season - including a run of five consecutive matches - and Wenger admitted that the striker has surprised him. "Certainly since the start of the season he has been a big surprise," he said.

Indeed, there has been a marked improvement since he arrived, from Seville, in January. "He is physically stronger. His character is stronger," Wenger said. Reyes will play that central role - having mainly been used on the left - in the absence of the non-flying Dennis Bergkamp and Wenger confirmed that he regards him as the 35-year-old Dutchman's eventual successor. Given that, at an initial £10m, his transfer fee is also substantially less than Rooney's, Wenger's comments may amount to another shrewdly aimed grenade at the Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson.

He lobbed another - this time at Jose Mourinho's Chelsea, whose 3-0 victory against Paris St-Germain was dismissed as coming against a French side "who are not in a good shape mentally". That accusation could not be aimed at Arsenal's opponents tonight. Rosenborg have been Norwegian champions for the past 12 seasons - and will soon wrap up a 13th title - and although they may not be the force who beat Real Madrid and almost defeated Milan in the late Nineties when they reached the last eight.

Rosenborg, in their ninth Champions' League campaign, could have sold out their 23,000-capacity Lerkendal stadium four times over, Wenger said. Because of the appeal of the English Premiership, it is the most popular fixture in the history of the Troillungen (Troll Kids) as Rosenborg are known.

They are not a small side, however. Physically imposing they set a stiff test, especially as Arsenal are favourites. "They will not take any risks and it is down to us to open them up," Wenger said. Patience paid off in the opening group match against PSV Eindhoven - Rosenborg lost away to Panathinaikos - and Wenger said that another victory "would go a long way to getting us out of the group stages".

Wenger is mindful of the perennial criticism that Arsenal are not the same side in Europe. "I feel we can kill games off in the Premiership," he said. "And we want to go into this competition with the same belief. From there, we want to win two or three games on the trot to do well." They will have to do so without Gilberto Silva whose back injury - a fractured vertebrae - is causing concern. The Brazilian will be out for at least a month, and maybe much longer. Sol Campbell will start, however, although he may be rested this weekend.

Rosenborg (probable, 4-4-2): E Johnsen; Russell, Riseth, Hoftun, Stensaas; Strand, Winsnes, Solli, Olsen; F Johnsen, Braathen.

Arsenal (probable, 4-4-2): Lehmann; Lauren, Touré, Campbell, Cole; Ljungberg, Vieira, Edu, Pires; Reyes, Henry.

Referee: F Meyer (Germany).

Comments