By Richard Clarke
Memories of the Invincibles may be revived on Sunday at Emirates Stadium.
If, as expected, Thomas Vermaelen fails to recover from the knee injury he collected at Aston Villa in midweek then Sol Campbell is in line to face Wayne Rooney once again.
The pair famously tangled in October 2004 when champions Arsenal were trying to complete 50 games unbeaten. With the match goalless, the key moment came in the 73rd minute when the Arsenal centre back was adjudged to have tripped the Manchester United striker in the area. It looked contentious but the home side grabbed their chance. Ruud van Nistlerooy scored the penalty and Rooney himself slammed home a second in the dying seconds. Arsenal’s run was over.
It would be wrong to say the penalty incident rankles with Arsène Wenger. But at the same time, he has not forgotten. Ahead of the meeting between the two sides this weekend he suggested that, like any attacking player, Rooney was looking for an edge in the area.
“You know how strikers are,” he said. “There is no angel. They play a game.
“If you look at the penalty at Old Trafford this year then [ok] you can not say it is not a penalty because Almunia really goes for it. But the ball was already out and Rooney took advantage of the fact Almunia had already dived.
“You can say that it is intelligent. But the border between intelligence and starting to cheat, every striker plays with that.
“You have two games, one with the opponent and one with the rules and the referee and you try and extend that to your advantage. Sometimes you go a little bit over the limit but that is part of the game of a striker.
''It is not cheating it is being a striker but you always have to push a little bit. A defender does it as well when he pulls a player's shirt.
''The first one [with Rooney in 2004], I don't agree with it. For that one Sol Campbell did not touch him at all.
''With the second one he made more of it but it is a penalty because Almunia goes for the ball and he is late.”Copyright 2014 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 29 Jan 2010