Arsenal are not short of goalscorers – 13 players have been on the mark for them this season – but Arsène Wenger's thoughts yesterday were focused on two strikers who will not be wearing the red-and-white at the Emirates tomorrow afternoon.
One was Andy Carroll, who will be leading the Newcastle line, the other was Robin van Persie, who to Wenger's ire may yet be turning out for the Netherlands in 12 days' time.
In the last year Van Persie has played for his country more often than his employers, largely because of injuries picked up on international duty. He last played in August, and has not completed 90 minutes since the World Cup. Wenger thus wants to ease him back into action after an ankle injury, but Bert van Marwijk, the Dutch coach, said he would have no hesitation in selecting him to play against Turkey, and "doesn't care" what the Arsenal medical team have to say.
"We are in a world today with Robin where we go day-by-day to see how he responds," said Wenger. "He may play for us before the 17th, but the situation with Holland is surreal for me because he has not even showed us he can play."
Wenger intimated that were it a competitive match he may be able to understand Van Martwijk's insistence, but this was a friendly when he could look at other players.
England play the same night, against France, and Wenger expects Carroll to be selected. "I'm convinced that Capello will have a look at him," said the Arsenal manager. "I believe he will be good enough to play for England but he has to show it over a longer period. He's intelligent on the ball, he has presence, charisma and confidence. I had doubts about him one year ago, but he has improved tremendously."
The match could see a return to Arsenal for Sol Campbell. The veteran has trained all week after recovering from a thigh injury and Newcastle manager Chris Hughton will make a late decision on whether to include him in the squad.
Newcastle are buoyant after defeating Sunderland 5-1 last weekend, but also aware that Arsenal beat them 4-1 in the Carling Cup on Tyneside less than a fortnight ago. "Last weekend was a wonderful weekend for us, and certainly a wonderful weekend for the city," said Hughton, "but the feeling doesn't last too long because we now face a very, very difficult match."Reuse content