Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Walcott's fitness - Bould and Banfield promoted -M'Vila and Vertonghen latest -Yoann Gourcuff

Morning Gooners.

Well wasn't that an exciting Bank Holiday Monday. So much happened and yet, in reality, nothing did - apart from Blackburn being relegated and I'm not too sad about that one bit.

We'll start with Theo Walcott's fitness - he'll be back in full training in the later stages of this week and the club are hoping he'll be available for Sunday's game with West Brom. In the last two games against Stoke and Norwich we've really missed him as an outlet on the right handside, so his return to full fitness for Sunday's showdown against West Brom can't be better timed.

If he does make the squad and is fully fit, I'd expect him to go straight back into the starting line up. It will be good to see him perform against Roy Hodgson's men and prove to the new England manager he's fully fit for the European Championships.

Sunday will be Pat Rice's final game as Arsene Wenger's assistant and the club are organising a small and informal gathering later this week to celebrate the work the Northern Irishman has done at the club.

Ahead of that, the names of Steve Bould and Neil Banfield have come to the fore as replacements for Rice on the bench, with Under-18s boss Bould given the assistant manager's role. Banfield will be elevated to become a first team coach from his current position as reserve team boss. I wouldn't expect an announcement to be made prior to Friday and in all likelihood it won't happened until the season has ended.

I think Bould is a good choice. I had heard last season when Rice's retirement was talked about that he didn't fancy the job, so it's good that he's changed his mind. It will be an interesting dynamic on the Arsenal bench with Wenger, Bould and Banfield there next season.

There has also been a lot of speculation that a deal has been agreed for Yann M'Vila. My information is that nothing has moved on as of yet. The player and the club waiting until Champions League qualification has been guaranteed and then talks will begin.

Once we have third place in the bag, a deal has to be struck with Rennes and then the player. From what I've been told M'Vila is keen to move to north London to work with Wenger more than going to Italy. Inter Milan are also watching him.

It should hardly come as any surprise if a deal is struck quickly. We've been after him for more than a year and talks with his agent have gone well. His people haven't put us off trying to sign him.

As I said ten days ago, we've held advanced talks but until the season is over nothing will be decided.

We're in much the same situation with Jan Vertonghen. We like him, we've watched him and are interested in signing him. But Spurs are leading the chase for his signature. Only once the Champions League places are sorted will the Ajax defender make up his mind where he wants to play football next season.

One name which has not been mentioned in the media is that of Yoann Gourcuff who is being watched by Arsenal scouts in France. The Lyon attacker is admired by Arsene Wenger and a move to north London could be on the cards provided the manager can make space in the squad for him by moving on some of our squad players.

That's it for today. More tomorrow.

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