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Cole will be ready for World Cup, says Wenger

Star fullback's return gives England a boost after Rooney's injury

Cole will be ready for World Cup, says Wenger

Arsene Wenger believes Ashley Cole will be in 'perfect' condition for next month's World Cup after seeing the England defender emerge unscathed from his first Premiership start for seven months.

Watched by England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson, Cole helped Arsenal stay in the hunt for a top-four Premiership finish as Wenger's side warmed up for the Champions League final against newly-crowned Spanish champion Barcelona with a 3-1 victory at Manchester City on Thursday.

It was Cole's first 90-minute appearance on the Premiership stage since October 2 and Wenger believes the fullback is finally over the foot and ankle problems which have blighted his season.

He is likely to feature in tomorrow's final league game of the season against Wigan Athletic, a match Arsenal must win if it is to finish above north London rival Tottenham in the table and secure automatic qualification for next season's Champions League.

"The positive thing is that Ashley didn't get injured," said Wenger.

"He needs another three or four games and he'll get better and better," he said.

"For England the timing is just right. We are at the beginning of May and the World Cup starts on June 9. In five weeks' time we will see a perfect Ashley Cole."

Blessing

Those words will be a blessing for Eriksson, who learned this week that he could be without key striker Wayne Rooney in Germany after the Manchester United striker fractured his metatarsal against Chelsea last Saturday.

Arsenal's victory, courtesy of two goals by Spanish substitute Jose Antonio Reyes, was not without incident with Dutch striker Robin van Persie allegedly making an obscene gesture towards City supporters when he was substituted in the second-half.

Freddie Ljungberg had put Arsenal ahead only for French defender David Sommeil to equalize before half time with his second goal of the season.

It required some breathtaking saves by England reserve keeper David James to keep Arsenal at bay before Reyes sealed the points with two goals in the space of six minutes late in the game.

This was Manchester City's fifth successive home defeat - a new club record - and manager Stuart Pearce insisted afterwards he is set for a busy summer in the transfer market.

"We put a great deal of effort into the game. I can't fault my players for that," said Pearce.

"But we gave Arsenal too much respect. Five home defeats is a poor run of form and we need to do something to put that right. Last summer I said we needed four players, but it might be that we need as many as eight this time."

Pearce said he would be ringing newly-appointed England coach Steve McClaren in the next few days to congratulate him on succeeding Eriksson after the World Cup.

"Steve will get my full support," added the former England defender, who has been tipped to take up an apprentice role under McClaren when he assumes his post on August 1.

"In the next few days I will be ringing him to congratulate him on his new job.If I can help him in any way I will do."

Meanwhile Spurs are away to FA Cup finalist West Ham and must top anything Arsenal achieves against Wigan at Highbury to secure the coveted Champions League qualifying spot.

However, a fourth-place finish for Tottenham will not be enough if Arsenal beats Barca in the Champions League final on May 17 and so becomes the 'fourth' English club on account of being the reigning champion.

And Wenger did his best to suggest why a West Ham win at the weekend was as much in the Hammers' interest as the Gunners'.

"They have a Cup final. If you want to win the Cup final, it's better you win the game before. They are a good team and they can beat anybody at home."

But West Ham manager Alan Pardew fears his team may be seriouly under-strength for the visit of Spurs.

His plans to field his intended FA Cup final line-up have been wrecked by injuries to 7.25 million pounds striker Dean Ashton, midfielder Yossi Benayoun, winger Matthew Etherington and defenders Anton Ferdinand and James Collins.

All five look like be rested to give them a chance of making it to Cardiff's Millennium Stadium for the final.

"We are having a bad run at just the wrong time. There is a lot riding on Sunday's game for both Tottenham and Arsenal and I am fully aware our fans want to see us produce a performance against Spurs," said Pardew.

'No risks'

"But we have to give ourselves the best possible chance of fielding a strong team in the Cup final and that means taking no risks with our big players."

Tottenham has worries of their own with captain and striker Robbie Keane doubtful with an ankle ligament problem while right-back Paul Stalteri (knee) and England midfielder Michael Carrick (calf) are also struggling.

"Robbie is a very good healer but normally you would be out for two or three weeks. He will do everything to be there on Sunday but it's a problem," admitted Tottenham manager Martin Jol.


Updated : 2021-10-26 11:33 GMT+08:00