Arsene Wenger praises Andy Carroll
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger warned the Gunners to concentrate on their own game at West Ham on Saturday rather than worrying about how to stop Andy Carroll.
The England striker, on loan from Liverpool, returned to action after a hamstring injury for the past 20 minutes of Monday night's win at QPR.
Carroll has proved more than a handful for the Arsenal defense before -- the 6-foot-3 forward most notably having headed in the winning goal for Newcastle at Emirates Stadium in November 2010.
"I rate Carroll, and don't think we have seen the best of him until now," Wenger said. "He started very well, then he had to deal with a high level of expectation with a massive transfer on his shoulders (to Liverpool) going to an historic club where a lot was expected of him. Maybe it was a bit too early for him. Since I have seen him at West Ham, he looks back to the Carroll we have seen at Newcastle, that means with less pressure."
Wenger, however, warned against focussing too much on the opposition instead of producing the required response when the Gunners look to get their domestic campaign back on track after last weekend's home defeat to Premier League leader Chelsea.
"Carroll has the quality and that will come out with time. We expect Carroll to be at his best -- it is down to us to deal with that," said Wenger, who could have 6-foot-6 German defender Per Mertesacker available again Saturday after a virus.
The flu-like illness had previously laid low forward Theo Walcott, midfielder Francis Coquelin and captain Thomas Vermaelen, and Wenger said Arsenal would go as far as stopping players from shaking hands if it meant keeping a virus from spreading through the squad.
"We have improved the level of hygiene in the dressing room, we clean everything. It is funny, but shaking hands is one of the biggest things to spread virus," said Wenger. "I shake hands with everybody, but we are advised not to do it when there is a high level of risk. At the moment it has passed and is not a high level. A few have it, but it is not (necessarily) the case that they got it here."
Having Mertesacker available again would be a tactical boost for nullifying the threat of Carroll.
"Mertesacker has made a big leap and he came back (from his broken ankle) very fit," said Wenger. "He looked very sharp on the first day that he came back, he lost some weight and of course that helps."
Also Friday, Wenger maintained that referees must always be allowed to make all decisions for themselves.
Reading boss Brian McDermott has been told his club has been on the wrong end of key refereeing decisions this season because his players do not appeal enough. The Royals were close to securing their first win when it led Newcastle 2-1 last weekend, only to see Demba Ba net a late equalizer after diverting the ball in with his hand.
McDermott was unhappy with the decision -- and was left perplexed when the fourth official suggested a more vehement appeal from his players could have seen the goal chalked off.
Gunners boss Wenger feels that must not be allowed to happen.
"It is down to the referee to make the right decision," Wenger said. "Once he has given a penalty, once he has given a goal, who was offside, (the referee) will not come back on his decision anyway. The Press has made, and rightly so, campaigns that the players should leave the referee alone. Sometimes you question yourselves, when the other teams do it and your players don't do it, that you have a little disadvantage, but I don't think it can be a rule for us to encourage our players to do that.
"We should leave the referee as much as we can alone to make his decisions."