Wenger: Strike duo vital

Nicklas Bendtner & Marouane Chamakh

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger admitted Nicklas Bendtner and Marouane Chamakh will be vital to their tilt at the Barclays Premier League after watching the duo net in the 5-0 FA Cup victory over Leyton Orient.

The Gunners came into the fifth-round replay smarting after Sunday’s Carling Cup final defeat to Birmingham but left celebrating a comfortable victory.

Chamakh’s first goal since November got the ball rolling in just the seventh minute, before Bendtner netted his hat-trick.

The Denmark international followed up a fine header and 18-yard drive with a 62nd-minute penalty to complete his treble, with substitute Gael Clichy wrapping up the result as he struck his first goal since November 2008.

The imposing result sets up a quarter-final clash at Old Trafford against Manchester United, who also stand in the Gunners’ way of success in the Premier League.

However, Wenger believes his side have a strong chance of usurping Sir Alex Ferguson’s side in both competitions even in the absence of in-form striker Robin van Persie.

The Dutch international faces up to four weeks out with a tear in a ligament at the back of his knee, but Wenger has backed Bendtner and Chamakh to fill the void.

“We have lost van Persie, of course, so for Bendtner and Chamakh to score is very important,” said the Frenchman after the game.

“It is very important that they have a level of confidence to be successful in the big games.

“You need your strikers to take any chances and Bendtner tonight did that well.

“We need Chamakh with the games in front of us,” he added.

“He had a great start to the season until the end of the November, early December when he looked a little bit burned out.

“Now he looks back [to himself] because even in training he looked a little bit tired. It’s good for him that he scored.”

Wenger, though, warned Bendtner that his hat-trick against the Os does not guarantee him a starting berth at the Nou Camp against Barcelona next week, saying: “You know what, it puts him contention to play against Sunderland. And, frankly, for us that is a vital game.”

The Frenchman also quashed speculation that Cesc Fabregas would be fit to face the Black Cats on Saturday after the Arsenal captain said in his programme notes that he hoped to play.

“I personally hope he will be fit next Tuesday,” said Wenger. “He has a chance to play against Barcelona.

“I don’t think he will be involved on Saturday. There is no chance but we will try with him on Sunday and Monday, and give him a final test Monday morning.”

Leyton Orient manager Russell Slade was quick to praise his side after a “difficult night” and believes a push for the npower League One play-offs is not beyond them.

“It was obviously a hard night,” he said. “We found a side in good form, with a real strong focus and a spot on attitude.

“Mr Wenger got a performance from his players and with their first three goals I thought they were quite ruthless really. Three attacks, three opportunities, three goals.

“But, still, I am proud of the way we tried to keep the ball and keep passing; that’s our and we are not going to throw away the rules that we have and the way we want to play.

“It was a difficult night but we need to go away and learn from that, and try and re-establish momentum in our respective league and try and see if we can push on and attain a top-six spot with the 16 remaining games we have got.”


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