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Wenger set for Cup changes in January jam

sports Updated: Jan 24, 2011 11:58 IST
AFP
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Arsene Wenger believes Robin van Persie will play a vital role in Arsenal's season, but has yet to decide whether to start the striker in Tuesday's League Cup semi-final second leg against Ipswich.

Championship outfit Ipswich will arrive at the Emirates with a 1-0 advantage from the first leg and with a new manager following the appointment of Paul Jewell.

But they will face an Arsenal side that has enjoyed an improved run of form since that first meeting with Arsene Wenger's side having scored nine goals in their three games since they slipped up at Portman Road.

Van Persie has played in two of those games, scoring five goals including the hat-trick that saw off Wigan last time out and moved the London club up to second in the Premier League.

The Dutch international's display drew warm praise from Wenger but with the striker having missed three months of the season with an ankle ligament injury, the Arsenal boss is keen not to overplay Van Persie at a congested stage of the season.

"Robin is an important player in our squad. He can finish, provide and the understanding with our offensive players is very good so of course, he will be very important," said the manager.

"Some players have played many games, but van Persie has been out for a long time. He and Cesc Fabregas had a long breather and we hope he can benefit from that."

But he made it clear there will be changes.

"We will rotate, we have no choice," he said. "We play nine games in January, it's the most we have ever played.

"When you look at the fixtures we had in December it means we need to rotate from game to game. But we have fantastic players on the bench and it is very important because we cannot always play with the same eleven."

Wenger believes the van Persie's numerous lay-offs will ultimately help him develop as a player.

"What he has gone through has been difficult. A player who is injured is fragile. He feels useless and is without his job. He is without his happiness," said the Frenchman.

"On the other hand, it has made him a lot stronger mentally because he had to fight against disappointments. This is what makes you strong in life.

"Robin is now completely sharp and fit and strong."

With Arsenal still in the hunt for four trophies, Wenger is anxious his side avoid further mistakes and secure their place in the Wembley final with the minimum of fuss.

"We have a good level of confidence and we are highly focused," he said.

"We want to do well in every competition and I am confident we will be highly focused on Tuesday."

Jewell looked on as caretaker-manager Ian McParland oversaw Ipswich's first leg victory but he has since taken charge of two games, recording one defeat and one victory.

The former Bradford and Wigan manager admits his side face a daunting task if they are to protect their single-goal lead in the tie but claims his players will be lifted by the weekend win over Doncaster.

"It's important for me to get off to a good start here," he said.

"You can feel the confidence within the club but it's only one game and we've got to go to Arsenal on Tuesday. It's still a long-term project and there's no magic wand."