Arsene Wenger is facing one of the toughest calls of his managerial career over whether to rest Robin van Persie for Tuesday’s game against Wolves – a move which could wreck the Arsenal striker’s bid to break Alan Shearer’s record for most Premier League goals in a calendar year.
Van Persie moved within two goals of Shearer’s six-year-old Premier League record last week when he slotted home a penalty against Aston Villa to take his tally for 2011 to 34 goals.
Arsenal face Wolves at home on Tuesday before entertaining QPR on New Year’s Eve – two games in which Van Persie would be expected to add to his tally.
Wenger, however, has become acutely aware of Arsenal’s reliance upon the Dutchman’s talents and is also conscious of the fact that the injury troubles that have dogged the striker over the last couple of years could return if the is forced to play too many games.
Losing Gervinho and Marouane Chamakh for up to a month in January for the African Nations Cup will place an even heavier burden on Van Persie and Wenger admitted he faces an agonising call over whether to bench his star striker on Tuesday despite him being on the verge of breaking Shearer’s record.
"Can he start three games in seven days? We will see. It will be a big demand for him. I don’t know yet, we will assess the situation after every game," Wenger said.
"You get his vibes, the medical vibes and you know the history with him. Then you make a decision.
"I rested him it in the Champions League because I thought we had enough security there and we could take a gamble."
Wenger admits Van Persie is desperate to break Shearer’s record, but is confident that the prospect of writing his name in to the record books will not distract the former Feyenoord striker if he is selected against Wolves and QPR.
The Frenchman said: "I believe the great players know what is important. And what is important is that he is the leader of the team. He knows as well that what is important is to win the games. What is important on the pitch is to make the right decision for every situation you face. He does that very well.
"You do not have to make an obsession of it, just play naturally.
"It is strange because you score goals when you don’t think about it."