Gunners expect Campell return

Arsenal will roll out the welcome mat to Sol Campbell when he makes his expected return to Highbury this week.

The 31-year-old central defender has been gathering his thoughts since exiting the ground at half-time during the defeat by West Ham in midweek.

Manager Arsene Wenger said: “We will help Sol to bounce back quickly and to focus and concentrate on the game of football, which is the best cure.

“I know Sol well enough to know he doesn’t do what he did if he is not really down.

“But I had a short conversation with Sol on the phone on Friday evening. He sounded okay to me and he will be back on Monday or Tuesday.”

Skipper Thierry Henry added after the 2-0 defeat of Birmingham: “I just think it is better when Sol is at the back and he always gives you the confidence you need.”

While Arsenal wrestle with Campbell’s loss of form, Chelsea moved 15 points clear of Manchester United at the top by beating Liverpool 2-0.

But Anfield manager Rafael Benitez accused Arjen Robben of being complicit in the sending-off of Jose Reina.

Reina was awarded a red card for raising his hands at Robben as the referee prepared to deal with the goalkeeper following his lunge on Eidur Gudjohnsen.

Benitez told Sky Sports: “The other player has dived, and it is crazy to see a red card for this thing.

“I’m sure Reina will be disappointed because he knows he loses control.

“Maybe Robben is in hospital now – maybe I need to go and see him. He dived, and it is so clear.”

If Benitez was feeling bad then Middlesbrough boss Steve McClaren was totally dispirited following his side’s 4-0 home defeat by Aston Villa.

The fans, though, were angry rather than upset, one supporter running unchallenged to the edge of the dug-out and hurling his season ticket towards McClaren.

He said: “I fully understand the frustrations of everybody and the anger because we have let the fans down at home.

“They have every right to say what they want to say and to criticise and to demonstrate.”

These are turbulent times in the north east with Newcastle looking for a successor to Graeme Souness and basement boys Sunderland losing again, this time 2-0 to West Ham.

Chairman Freddy Shepherd claims there are “no more than 10 people” capable of managing the club. He will begin the task next week of drawing up a short-list.

Glenn Roeder and Alan Shearer were in charge on Saturday and led Newcastle to a much-need 2-0 home victory against Portsmouth.

Shearer chalked up a record 201st goal for the club and Shepherd claimed: “There are not that many great managers around.

“There are no more than 10 people who could do the Newcastle job. It is one of the biggest in world football. The pressures are immense.”

Manchester United skipper Gary Neville has challenged birthday-boy Cristiano Ronaldo to hit the 15-goal mark this season.

The Portugal winger, 21 yesterday, netted a superb double in the 4-2 win over Fulham.

Neville said: “Cristiano should definitely be scoring more than he has done.

“He does get his fair share but maybe he needs a little bit more consistency because with his attributes, he could easily get 15 goals a season.”

Spurs striker Jermain Defoe put the pressure on manager Martin Jol to keep pairing him with Robbie Keane after scoring two goals in the 3-1 win over Charlton.

“We’ve got a great squad now and great players,” said Defoe. “Going forward we were the better team.”

Bolton boss Sam Allardyce is taking his weary squad to Dubai this week for some warm weather training.

Allardyce has seen his options limited through injuries and departures to the African Nations Cup.

Senegal midfielder Khalilou Fadiga has become the latest long term-absentee. He is out for the season after rupturing knee ligaments in the 1-1 draw against Wigan.

Meanwhile, Everton and West Brom chalked up confidence-boosting home victories against Manchester City and Blackburn.

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