Saturday, 5 May 2012

A cause for double celebration! -Diaby's injury -RVP's future

Morning Gooners.

Here we are - the final home match of the 2011/12 season. I really can't believe the season has gone so quickly, it feels like this one has gone quicker than a lot others.

Today is a special day for two reasons. Firstly the manager reaches 900 matches in charge of The Arsenal. A fantastic achievement I think we all agree for a man nobody knew 16 years ago when he was appointed.
The boss was in a jovial mood at his press conference yesterday and said he didn't know where the time had gone. We might be seven years without meaningful silverware, but for me he's still the man for the job.

Secondly it is in all likelihood Pat Rice's final home game as Wenger's assistant. Rice had planned to retire last summer but was persuaded to stay at the club for one final season. I don't think there is much chance he'll stay on when his contract comes to an end this time.

As a player, captain, coach and now assistant manager, Rice's contribution to Arsenal is there for all to see. Making 528 appearances for the club, Rice was part of the 1971 double winning side and then led the team as captain to win the FA Cup in 1979. As part of Arsene Wenger's back room staff, he's got medals for Premier League titles and FA Cups. The man, as they say, is an Arsenal legend.

What could be more fitting than to give him a fantastic send off at the Grove this afternoon by beating Norwich. Pat's presence beside the manager is often under valued. The Northern Irishman is one of the reasons the Arsenal has enjoyed so much success in these last 16 years. I know people inside the club respect and value the work Pat has done.

He won't want a fancy send off but I'm sure we'll give him one. I can't wait to hear the crowd sign his name. It'll be emotional!

And on to the game. It's so important but that has been said so much this week. Destiny is in our own hands but only if we win today. We cannot rely on others slipping up.

I think the team will be the same one which started at Stoke last weekend:
Szczesny, Sagna, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Gibbs, Song, Ramsey, Gervinho, Rosicky, Benayoun, van Persie.

The only player I could see possibly given a start is Alex Oxlade Chamberlain if the manager wants to be more attack minded. But the teenager's form hasn't been great so I think he'll more than likely start from the bench.

Abou Diaby is out as we know with a calf strain which is likely to lead him to miss our final game as well. But the manager told the French media yesterday he'll be available for the Euros should France pick him. 

The manager was also asked about Robin van Persie's future. Wenger as expected said that contract talks will start once the season is over and his main priority is to find agreement with Robin over an extension to his current deal. There isn't much new to add that we don't already know. Let's hope a deal can be agreed as soon as possible.

And that's it. A dreaded 12,45 kick off today but as it's the last home game of the season I'm sure  we'll all be up for it.

Until tomorrow.

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