| VIEIRA: Hoping for the best
London: Arsenal’s bid to repeat last season’s League and Cup double was dealt a potential blow on Thursday when skipper Patrick Vieira admitted he could be out for the rest of the season.
The Gunners are already facing the daunting prospect of having Sol Campbell banned for four matches following the England centre-back’s red card for elbowing in Wednesday’s 2-2 draw with Manchester United.
Manager Arsene Wenger, though, said Vieira — who had an X-ray on Thursday — would be out for two weeks at least.
Vieira hobbled off after 34 minutes of the match after aggravating his inflamed right knee joint in a challenge with United's Roy Keane.
“Patrick will definitely be out for two weeks but it is not necessarily the end of his season,” Wenger told Arsenal’s official website. “His knee is not as bad as we first thought but the doctors have advised him to take a complete rest for two weeks because his knee is inflamed.”
The French midfielder said: “I hurt the knee again when I landed heavily after a challenge. What I need is a rest to cure the problem. I will definitely not be able to play on Saturday and I am not optimistic for the rest of the season. I can just hope for the best.”
Losing Vieira would be a devastating blow but the absence of Campbell would arguably inflict even greater damage on Arsenal’s title prospects because of the lack of adequate cover.
Pascal Cygan’s form has dipped badly since the turn of the year and the lanky Frenchman looked desperately short of confidence during a recent spell standing in for Martin Keown.
Campbell was sent off after catching Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with his elbow seven minutes from the end.
If the red card is upheld he will receive an automatic three-match ban for violent conduct and an extra match because he has already been sent off once this season. That will rule him out of three crucial League matches and the FA Cup final against Southampton next month.
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has branded the red card a “complete joke” and Campbell is hopeful referee Mark Halsey might review his decision.
The England centre-back admitted his arm made contact with the Norwegian forward but insists there was no malice in his action. “It wasn’t deliberate. It was not as if I was looking for him and turning around and looking to injure or maim him, or whatever. I was protecting the ball.
“I spoke to the referee after the game and he is willing to look at it. It looks bad with the naked eye because his head flings back. But the video is not going to lie. It is going to show that it was not deliberate.”