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Arsenal can lay down a marker

Arsenal
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Angry Owen denies summer retirement plan

Newcastle United striker Michael Owen has angrily denied reports that he is planning to retire from football at the end of the season when his current contract expires.

It was claimed that the 29-year-old was set to take up a new career as a full-time racehorse trainer, but Owen's management company have dismissed the suggestion as ''totally untrue and wrong.''

''Any suggestion or unfounded speculation that Michael Owen has any intention of quitting football is totally untrue and wrong,'' read a statement from Wasserman Media Group.

''Michael remains as committed to his football career as he ever has been and is deeply and professionally offended that anyone should suggest otherwise.''

The statement continued: ''Michael Owen has instructed lawyers and will take action against any publication which he feels inaccurately or unfairly suggested he is quitting football and is damaging to his professional reputation.''

Although he is available to move on a free transfer in the summer, only Everton have been linked with the player, and this lack of interest was reported to have informed Owen's now discredited decision to retire.

Once one of the most feared strikers in the game, Owen became the club's record signing when he joined from Real Madrid for £17m in 2005, but his reputation has been tarnished by a spate of injuries which have severely restricted his playing time and robbed him of his lightening pace.

Along with serious hamstring and knee injuries, Owen's time on Tyneside has been blighted by other niggling problems, limiting him to just 70 league appearances for the Magpies. But with 27 goals since arriving at St James' Park, Owen's goal-scoring record stands up to scrutiny, at least statistically.

However in the last six months, when Newcastle have been struggling to stave-off the threat of relegation, supporters have been disappointed with Owen's jaded performances, in terms of goals and all round play.

Many Newcastle fans consider that on a wage of around £115,000, which represents 10% of the club's total wage bill, Owen no longer warrants his place in the team, despite his eight goals this season.

Owen's widely anticipated return to form, following the arrival of his friend and former England partner Alan Shearer, failed to materialise, in fact it was not until Owen was substituted against Middlesbrough on Monday that Newcastle took the lead. Owen has not scored since the 2-2 draw with West Ham United on January 10.

Mark Viduka and Obafemi Martins are now appear to be the club's first choice strikers, meaning Owen can expect to be on the bench for Saturday's crucial home game against Fulham.

On Friday, Shearer dismissed the retirement claims , saying: ''He doesn't need it, doesn't deserve it. The stories that are out this morning are totally ludicrous and totally untrue as far as he's concerned, and he has laughed them off. But Michael Owen is a big-name player and sometimes will attract headlines.''

Wherever he plays his football, his former team-mate at both club and international level is convinced he has a future at Premier League level. Shearer said: ''I am 100% certain he will have a future in the Premier League. But as to where that will be, here or elsewhere, that's for a discussion at the end of the season.''

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