Wenger worries title challenge could be sunk by injuries

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The Independent Online

Arsene Wenger yesterday admitted that he is at a loss to explain Arsenal's lengthy injury list but knows that it could undermine their push for the title over the coming weeks.

The Gunners could go top of the table on goal difference with victory over struggling Bolton Wanderers, whom they beat 2-0 on Sunday, in tonight's re-arranged game at the Emirates Stadium.

Captain Cesc Fabregas marked his return from a three-week lay-off with the opening goal at the Reebok Stadium, while match-fit England forward Theo Walcott and Denilson are set to feature again tonight. However, both Aaron Ramsey and Samir Nasri are expected to be out for the best part of a month after picking up injuries in training last week, while Fran Merida suffered an ankle problem just before he scored Arsenal's late second goal at Bolton.

Nicklas Bendtner should, though, be back in contention for the trip to Aston Villa on 27 January as he recovers from groin surgery. "We have analysed absolutely everything," Wenger said. "It is strange because the more injuries you get, you then seem to get even more because you always play the same players. Also, you rush some players back and then you have more chance to get them injured again."

Sol Campbell's first-team return, after signing until the end of the season, could come in the weekend's FA Cup fourth-round tie at Stoke. The arrival of Campbell, who had been training at Arsenal since leaving Notts County, means Wenger is now likely to look to allow Philippe Senderos to leave Arsenal, with Celtic one interested party.

The Swiss defender, 24, almost joined Everton in the summer having spent last season on loan at Milan. Wenger revealed: "There is an interest from Celtic, yes. It may happen. We have Sol Campbell and we have four centre-backs. Philippe needs to play. He has not played for a long time and he needs to if he wants to go to the World Cup."

Wenger, though, has ruled out a move for the Croatia striker Mario Mandzukic. "You will hear a few names until the end of the transfer window without there being any truth in it," Wenger said.

Arsenal have closed the gap on Chelsea down to just three points, although because of the recent postponements they will, after tonight, have played a game more than the leaders, whose goal difference is better by two. The Gunners are about to embark upon a run of fixtures which could well decide their campaign – Manchester United at home after the trip to Villa, a date with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on 7 February and then Liverpool at home three days later.

Despite the injuries, Bolton manager Owen Coyle believes Arsenal can win the league: "They are [contenders], absolutely, and I think it's all credit to them. They are title challengers after being written off."

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