Arsenal on high but Vieira injury worries Wenger

By Mark Burton
Sunday 22 February 2004 01:00

Arsenal went seven points clear at the top of the Premiership after repeating last week's 2-1 FA Cup victory over third-placed Chelsea, this time in the League. But even with Manchester United being held 1-1 at home by Leeds United, the Arsenal celebrations are on ice - the ice in question being on Patrick Vieira's knee.

The French midfielder scored Arsenal's equaliser but hurt his knee in a tackle by John Terry, and had an ice pack put on the joint afterwards. If that does not produce results, Vieira's place against Celta Vigo in the Champions' League will be in doubt.

"It's his bad knee so we will see how he is in the morning," said Arsenal's manager, Arsène Wenger, recalling that it was an injury to the same knee that caused Vieira to miss the title run-in last season. Vieira cancelled out an opener by Eidur Gudjohnsen, who was sent off after Edu had netted Arsenal's winner.

The French midfielder, who lost the ball in the build-up to Chelsea's opener, was sure his side would not relive last year's misery when they surrendered a five-point advantage over United. Vieira said: "We have put ourselves in a comfortable position but we have learned a lot from last year and will try not to make the same mistake." Which was? "Maybe having too much confidence - thinking we would win games easily."

United know by now that nothing comes easy. After Roy Keane's criticism of the effort put in by the club's younger players, Sir Alex Ferguson's team did not snap out of their recent Premiership rut.

After struggling past Southampton and Everton and losing at home to Middlesbrough, they could not break through until Keane came off the bench and could not hold on after Paul Scholes had put them ahead. In the absence of Mark Viduka, Alan Smith dealt Old Trafford title hopes a double blow.

The man who is seen as the leader of Leeds' fight for survival headed the equaliser and it was his 50-50 challenge with Mikaël Silvestre that left the French defender possibly facing a long lay-off. Smith's goal also gave Leeds a respectable result to mark the passing of their former legendary player, John Charles.

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