Van Persie set for Arsenal return - Premier League - Football - The Independent

Van Persie set for Arsenal return

Dutch striker Robin van Persie will give Arsenal's title ambitions a timely boost when he returns against Tottenham at White Hart Lane tomorrow.

Van Persie, out for five months after rupturing ankle ligaments on international duty, is likely to start from the bench in a match which could see the Gunners leapfrog Manchester United in the Barclays Premier League table.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger admits he is taking a "gamble" in bringing the striker back ahead of schedule but insists Arsenal have missed Van Persie's goal power this season.

Wenger, who lost William Gallas for the season when he came back too soon in the Champions League first leg against Barcelona, said: "There is always a gamble in this kind of decision. But in his (Van Persie's) case we have been a bit more cautious because he has had more time for preparation.

"The biggest gamble I took recently was with Gallas. It didn't work, but he came back from a muscular problem, that is not the case for Robin. It was a joint problem.

"When I pick a player it means he is fit and sharp and has worked very hard. Of course he lacks match-practice but physically he is ready, he is fit."

Wenger believes Arsenal's title challenge would be several points better off but for Van Persie's injury.

"He is a very important player for this club," said Wenger. "He is important for the confidence. He can make the final ball, he is good on set-pieces, he can score goals, so we are very happy to have him back. The sadness was that we lost him so early in the season."

Wenger also confirmed defender Sol Campbell would play from the start against his former club and at a ground where he is bound to receive a hostile reception.

Campbell, 35, has played six Premier League matches and nine games in all since Wenger relaunched his career after he had walked out of Notts County earlier this season.

Wenger believes Campbell has been one of the keys to Arsenal's continued title surge.

Wenger said: "Sol has been a big support for me and the squad. He is very important in the dressing room because he is highly focused and highly motivated. Every time he has played he has turned in a very good performance. It is one of the good signings I have made.

"I have no concerns about him. He will play tomorrow. I didn't imagine he would play as many games as he has. I thought he would play in one or two games maybe but he got those extra matches because he played well."

Wenger also admitted he was "sad" that Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith, one of his biggest supporters, had appointed bankers to find a buyer for the 16% of shares she holds in Arsenal.

Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov and US businessman Stan Kroenke have long been fighting for control of the club and if either bought a notable amount of Bracewell-Smith's stock, it would trigger a formal takeover bid.

Kroenke reportedly needs as few as 10 shares to reach the threshold. He holds 29.9% of shares, the highest figure allowed by Stock Exchange rules without a takeover bid. Usmanov's Red and White Holdings have 26%.

But Wenger believes any share sale or takeover would not affect the way he runs the club.

"In this job you adapt and as long as I am free to work the way I want I don't want to interfere," said Wenger. "There is no special worry, no.

"Of course, she (Lady Bracewell) has always been a great support to me, but she has the freedom to decide when she sells her shares or not. I'm very happy if she keeps her shares but I cannot interfere with that.

"The philosophy of the club will not change no matter who buys the shares. We always run our business in the same way. That means having a balanced budget with our natural resources. It looks like that will be the rule of the future in the game so I do not see why that should change no matter who is the owner."

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