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Al Ahli
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Japan U19
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By ESPN Staff

Owen still a major threat, warns Wenger

Arsene Wenger has warned his Arsenal players not to underestimate the threat of Michael Owen when Newcastle return to the Emirates Stadium on Tuesday night.

The England striker may have only scored once since October - against Stoke in the FA Cup - but Wenger insists the 'quality is there', with Magpies boss Kevin Keegan confident Owen will soon be back among the goals.

There have, nevertheless, been suggestions Owen could become a high-profile casualty under new England manager Fabio Capello when the squad is announced for the friendly against Switzerland.

Wenger, though, has long been an admirer of the former Liverpool and Real Madrid striker, now 28, who looked lively during the FA Cup fourth-round tie at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday but lacked decent service and support in the final third.

The Arsenal manager knows full well it would be foolish to write off Owen as a spent force.

'His match sharpness will come back with more games,' Wenger said.

'On Tuesday night he will be sharper than against us on Saturday.

'You still feel that if you make a mistake, he will be there to take advantage of it as his runs are very intelligent.

'Against us in the FA Cup on Saturday, I was worried about him as I felt that if no-one was there, he would be there - on deflections he is in there.

'You see that the quality is there, but Owen is not yet 100%.'

Arsenal may have bowed out of the Carling Cup last week, but they resume the Premier League campaign tomorrow night very much still in the title race.

Leaders Manchester United, top only on goal difference, showed few ill effects from their short break in Saudi Arabia, sweeping aside Carling Cup finalists Tottenham 3-1 on Sunday to stay on course for the Double.

With third-placed Chelsea also showing little sign of dropping from the pace, it looks set to be an interesting run-in over the closing 15 games of the campaign.

Wenger said: 'I believe that it will be tight until the end of the season.

'I watched Chelsea the other night. They had 11 players out and were still very strong. Who were not on the pitch were very experienced, so you can't discount Chelsea - they are winners as they have won the title before.

'It will be interesting. We have the smallest squad. That is why it is important that we do not have injuries.'

Striker Robin van Persie is continuing his recovery from a thigh problem - the latest in a series of injuries this season - and is expected back in training with Arsenal later this week following a spell of rehabilitation in Holland.

Wenger will also be keeping close tabs on the fitness of Ivory Coast defender Kolo Toure, who suffered a groin problem on international duty at the African Nations Cup.

Centre-back Toure, 26, has now been assessed by Arsenal medical staff after he was flown to Paris from the tournament in Ghana.

Wenger revealed the problem is not a major one. 'It will keep him out for eight to 10 days - but Kolo will stay with the Ivory Coast squad for the rest of the tournament,' he said.

Meanwhile, there was also more positive news on winger Tomas Rosicky, who limped off after less than 10 minutes on Saturday.

'There is no deep problem with Tomas,' Wenger said. 'He has a problem with his hamstring, but it is not torn.

'Tomas got a kick at Fulham and the inflammation around his tendon provokes some pain, but we feel it's a question of days, not weeks.'

Reports had linked Arsenal with an £8million swoop for in-demand Jonathan Woodgate - rumours which were quickly shot down by the Frenchman.

Although Wenger may continue maintain there is no need to strengthen during the final days of the January transfer window, that situation could change rapidly.

'We have players away at the African Nations Cup. We hope to get van Persie back quickly, and Djourou also, so there is no real need,' he said after the 3-0 win over Newcastle on Saturday.

'But if we lose players now, and get injuries in the African Nations Cup, then I will have to do something.'