Wenger may rest Adebayor to keep Champions League dreams alive

Click to follow
The Independent Football

Arsenal will attempt to keep their flagging title challenge alive today away against Bolton Wanderers with Arsène Wenger prepared to rest Emmanuel Adebayor in order to the keep the striker ready for the Champions League quarter-finals. The Arsenal manager said that it would be "crazy" to give up the challenge now.

Six points behind leaders Manchester United with seven games to play, Wenger is ready to entrust his attack to either Nicklas Bendtner or Robin van Persie to make sure that Adebayor is ready for the sequence of three games against Liverpool. Arsenal play against Rafael Benitez's team – who have one fewer day's rest – at the Emirates on Wednesday in the first leg of their Champions League tie.

Having scored in nine consecutive performances up until 11 February, Adebayor, with 23 goals this season, has only managed one goal in the past eight games. "He did not score recently because as a team we have made less chances, and also physically he was a bit jaded because he has played in nearly every single game since the start of the season," Wenger said. "I believe he has given a lot this year and that he would need a little breather, maybe.

"He played a lot on his own up front and has had to fight very hard. At the moment, to refresh him a bit would do him some good. I have Bendtner there, I have Van Persie coming back, but Adebayor is an important player in our squad."

Bolton have proved awkward for Wenger's side in the past, under Sam Allardyce they famously came back from two goals down to Arsenal in April 2003 to draw a league game at the Reebok Stadium 2-2. The result derailed Arsenal's season and Manchester United won the Premier League title that year. Having failed to win any of their last five Premier League games, Wenger's side are now one point behind Chelsea in third but Wenger has not given up hope.

"Not to believe it now would be crazy," he said. "That would be a shame because we have worked so hard and fought so hard. However, the belief is maybe less strong than when we were five points ahead. Certainly now we cannot drop any points in the direct game with Manchester United. We are in a situation where we have to win that. But before dreaming of the title, we have to show we can be consistent again and win games."

Facing Liverpool on Wednesday, in the league next Saturday and again at Anfield on 8 April Wenger said that winning at the Reebok Stadium would give his side a crucial fillip. "We know for us it is a massive game," he said. "People talk about the Champions League, but it is better you go into the Champions League if you have won the game before than to have had a disappointing result.

"We had a massive disappointment after the Chelsea game, but the fact that the players all went away and thought about something different with internationals will have refreshed them. They can come back focused again and think it is a new start again."