Wenger prepares for run-in without Van Persie

January 26, 2007

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger accepts he may have to face up to life without leading scorer Robin van Persie for the rest of the season.

GettyImages / MikeHewittRobin Van Persie: Six week absence.

The Dutchman - on target 13 times for the Gunners this season - suffered a broken fifth metatarsal in his right foot when equalising during the 2-1 victory over Manchester United last weekend.

Wenger appreciates that to expect the 23-year-old to be back in meaningful first-team action before the end of the campaign would be 'optimistic'.

'Ideally you would say six to eight weeks - but as well it could be 10,' said the Arsenal manager.

'That means April and you are close to the end of the season and you will need to get back to your best level.

'I hope it will be six weeks - but that is really optimistic.'

Wenger is expected to recall his regulars for Sunday's visit of Bolton in the fourth round of the FA Cup, having fielded a youthful side in the midweek Carling Cup semi-final first leg at Tottenham.

Although the Gunners rallied from 2-0 down to earn a draw with a second-half brace from Julio Baptista, who had also netted an own goal, the result came at a price.

Midfielder Alexander Hleb came off the bench only to be replaced nine minutes from time and is set for at least a month on the sidelines with a hamstring problem.

'It will be a good four weeks,' Wenger confirmed. 'That is the disappointing side of Wednesday night.

'It puts our performance into perspective.

'You do not want to lose players in January because, if you lose them for a long time, then their season can be over.'

Jeremie Aliadiere (back) and Emmanuel Eboue (ankle) also picked up knocks at White Hart Lane, and may not recover in time to face Bolton.

Midfielder Cesc Fabregas is likely to feature again, having sat out just three matches this season.

The brilliant 19-year-old Spaniard knows Bolton would enjoy nothing more than bringing everyone down to earth with a bump on Sunday, having already beaten the Gunners once this season in their Premiership clash back in November.

'First of all we want to think of the Bolton game. We want to go to the final of the FA Cup as well,' Fabregas said.

'If we can do what we have done in the last weeks we can win - but they are a good team and will be dangerous.'