Arsene Wenger is facing one of the toughest calls of his managerial career over whether to rest Robin van Persie for the game against Wolverhampton Wanderers.
A selection dilemma for manager Wenger
LONDON // Arsene Wenger is facing one of the toughest calls of his managerial career over whether to rest Robin van Persie for tonight's game against Wolverhampton Wanderers - 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 before making the short trip to Loftus Road to face Queens Park Rangers on New Year's Eve - two games in which Van Persie would be expected to add to his tally.
Wenger, however, is acutely aware of Arsenal's reliance upon the Dutchman and is also conscious of the fact the injury troubles that have dogged the striker over the years are more likely to return with extra work. Losing Gervinho and Marouane Chamakh for up to a month in January for the Africa Cup of Nations will place an even heavier burden on Van Persie and Wenger admitted he faces a difficult decision over whether to bench his star striker 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.
Wenger said Van Persie is eager to break Shearer's record, but is confident that the prospect of writing his name into the record books will not distract the former Feyenoord striker if he is selected against Wolves and QPR.
"I believe the great players know what is important," the Frenchman said. "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 … It is strange because you score goals when you don't think about it."
* Press Association