Arsène Wenger expects to see the best of Thierry Henry and William Gallas in the final months of the campaign.

The Arsenal captain returned to action against Charlton on Tuesday night after eight games on the sidelines while Gallas was back in training on Friday after a lengthy lay-off with a thigh problem.

Injuries have not been their only concern. The French duo played a combined total of 21 competitive internationals - plus friendlies - between June and October and Henry in particular has felt the effects of last summer's World Cup.

For Wenger it is one of the pitfalls of club management but, despite the quality of the players in question, he would never consider risking their long-term fitness for short-term gain.

"No matter how good you are, if you are not fresh, hungry and completely free in your movement you have no chance," he said.

"I felt that after the World Cup with France going into the Final and then being used in the friendlies, I knew they would hit the wall. I've seen it four times after World Cups with players who have gone far.

"I knew that if they are not a little bit protected they do not survive in October and November. That's why I was so angry when they play the friendlies for 90 minutes.

"But I never force anybody to play because it is always better - no matter how good they are - to have a player completely fit and fresh rather than the best player in the world who is not fit. I never push anybody to play.

"It is more mental than physical tiredness," added Wenger. "It's a big pressure, it's not so much the quality of the international games but there is so much stress every time that the players come out of the World Cup and they do not feel completely ready to go for it again.

"We lost Gallas, he has been out of the squad for 50 days. Today he came back [to training] but it is 50 days. As for Thierry you could tell he was mentally tired, he was not as present in the fight, not as sharp in his runs as before. You don't lose that in a month but you have periods when you go through a little bit of fatigue.

"However, I think he has come back very strong. He's a guy who loves competition and that's good with the number of games we play."

8/1 - Arsenal to win the 2006/07 FA Cup

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5 Jan 2007