Wenger waits on van Persie

Van Persie set the alarm bells ringing when he hobbled out of

Holland’s 5-3 win over Hungary, having opened the scoring in

Amsterdam. Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk played down the problem,

suffered when the striker received a knee in his thigh, suggesting

“with luck he could play for Arsenal this weekend.” However, with

both van Persie’s recent injury history and the recent general

setbacks suffered by the battle-weary squad, Wenger would be

forgiven if he did not put much faith in the footballing Gods to

deal him a favourable hand as he prepares for Saturday’s Premier

League visit of Blackburn. Van Persie – who suffered a serious

ankle injury while on international duty in November 2009 which

sidelined him for five months of last season – is set to be

assessed by the Arsenal medical staff upon his return to London,

and the extra day’s rest of the new Euro 2012 qualifiers could work

in his favour for a swift recovery. Wenger will certainly have

plenty to contemplate from the international break, during which

nearly all of his squad were away, with youngster Jack Wilshere

impressing on his two appearances for England, while the teenager

could be set for a busy summer if, as expected, he is called into

the Under-21s European Championship finals squad. However, on his

immediate agenda will be ensure the team return to winning ways

against Rovers in Saturday’s afternoon’s late kick-off at Emirates

Stadium. By then, the Gunners could further trail leaders

Manchester United, who are at relegation-battlers West Ham earlier

in the day, or indeed be handed another golden opportunity to slash

the current five-point deficit. Despite being held to a second

consecutive draw a fortnight ago at West Brom, where they had

trailed 2-0, all is not yet lost for the Gunners, who, if they win

their remaining fixtures – which include a showdown against United

at Emirates Stadium on May 1 – would be crowned Premier League

champions. “I am confident the consistency at the end of the season

will be rewarded, so let’s focus on keeping our run going and

winning our next game,” said Wenger, whose men have not lost in the

league since going down 1-0 at Old Trafford on December 13. “Things

can change very quickly, and what is important for us is to get

back winning, which is what our squad needs at the moment – the

psychological lift of coming back from 2-0 down was vital for our

next game against Blackburn.” While Arsenal may be left sweating on

the fitness of van Persie, it is likely captain Cesc Fabregas,

England winger Theo Walcott, and midfielders Alex Song and Abou

Diaby may well all be in contention to return against Rovers.

Wenger must also decide whether to stick with Manuel Almunia or

hand veteran Jens Lehmann a shock return to action. The 41-year-old

made his first appearance in Arsenal colours for nearly three years

when he played 90 minutes as the reserves lost 2-1 at Wigan

yesterday. Lehmann, part of the Invincibles side of 2003/2004, came

out of retirement to answer Wenger’s goalkeeper SOS following

injuries to Wojciech Szczesny and Lukasz Fabianski that left

Almunia as the only fit senior man. However, the 33-year-old

Spaniard is already under the spotlight once again after poor

performance at The Hawthorns. Lehmann – who moved to Stuttgart

three years ago – enjoyed his outing at Robin Park Arena. “It was

very beneficial for me to play a game,” he told Arsenal.com.

“Physically I felt well because I have trained hard during the last

few weeks. “I was okay before [I joined], but it’s different when

you train with the team for three hours. “I felt that quite a lot

last weekend, but now I have recovered a little bit and I felt

quite fresh.” Lehmann continued: “It is always good to learn a

little bit what I could have done better. “There are some

situations that you can’t play in a training game because in a real

game there is a referee, linesmen and everything has to fit

together to create situations like the game itself. “It was a good

experience.”