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Souness in a sweat on Owen.

Byline: By Lee Ryder

Newcastle United striker Michael Owen's chances of facing Arsenal are hanging by a thread, with manager Graeme Souness poised to make an 11th-hour decision before penning his team for the visit of the Londoners.

Owen trained today, but his manager will wait to see if there is a reaction before recalling him for the first time in over a month.

However, defender Steven Taylor is certain to miss out, after the teenager aggravated his dislocated shoulder problem.

Taylor took a tumble in training this week and is having a scan today to assess the damage.

The Chronicle revealed this week that United were struggling to get the likes of Kieron Dyer (hamstring) and Stephen Carr (hernia) fit for the clash with the Gunners and that situation hasn't changed, with Taylor ruled out and Owen only an outside chance.

The extended absence of England ace Owen is the last thing Souness needs at the moment, but the United boss' big decision may now be who to partner Alan Shearer with in attack from Shola Ameobi, Michael Chopra or Albert Luque.

Owen had hoped to be back for the Arsenal game as a worst case scenario after suffering a groin problem as United prepared for the trip to Chelsea on November 19.

Teenage defender Taylor was also hopeful of making a return against the Gunners following a dislocated shoulder, but doesn't look like he is going to win his race against time, with United medical staff worried any potential repeat of the injury could set him back.

Owen's last appearance in a black and white shirt came over a month ago in a 1-0 win against Birmingham City, which coincides with the last time United scored from open play.

That day it was another injury victim, Emre, on the scoresheet, but since Owen's groin tear before the 3-0 defeat against champions Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, Souness has watched his side go 360 minutes without a goal from open play.

Shearer's penalty against Villa is all United have had to shout about since, and Souness admitted the pounds 17m man's return is imperative if his side are to re-capture their form.

Souness said today: "He is the best English goal-getter around.

"We paid a fortune for him, but unfortunately for all of us, he's not been available to us and we are certainly going to miss him."

Dyer and Carr will push for a return at West Ham a week tomorrow at Upton Park along with Celestine Babayaro who is suffering double woe with a groin problem and the last of a three-game ban.

Aussie defender Craig Moore still has some time to go before he can make his first Premiership appearance for United, while Charles N'Zogbia remains out until the new year with a broken hand.

And Emre still has no return date after damaging his hamstring at Wigan in the Carling Cup.

Souness continues to look on in disbelief at the injury situation, but feels the team needs to be fully fit before being judged.

He added: "We have said all along ( and I have said this to everyone who has asked me the question ( the time to judge us and all the players is when they are all fully fit and on the pitch together. We are now in December and that's not happened."

Meanwhile, Newcastle's FA Cup third round clash with Mansfield Town remains on Saturday, January 7, with the BBC and Sky opting not to screen the game live.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Dec 9, 2005
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