Thursday, 10 May 2012

Wenger confident as Hill-Wood hopes RVP will stay -Theo Walcott fit?

Morning Gooners.

It's becoming an annual tradition at the club - the end of season barbecue at the training ground for the players and their families. Last night was a little different as it was also chance for the players to say a social farewell to Pat Rice who is set to retire at the end of the season.

There will be no change of heart from the assistant manager this time round. After 44-years service to the club, the player, captain, coach and now assistant to manager Arsene Wenger will call it a day. While a social get together was a nice way to say goodbye to Rice before the players jet off on holiday or prepare themselves for training camps prior to the European Championships, I'm sure he'd appreciate three points more this Sunday.

He's a popular man among the players - as many tweet their appreciation for him last night. But he has obviously felt the time was right for him to retire. Next season will be the first time in 16-years at the club Rice hasn't sat next to Wenger on the bench for the opening game of the season. Instead promoted to first team coaching duties have been Steve Bould and Neil Banfield.

It will be interesting to see what Bould brings to the assistant manager's role. Banfield's promotion is also richly deserved having worked with the reserves for a number of years.

On Saturday it was interesting to watch Rice go about his duties in his final pre-match warm up at the Grove. His final piece of one to one warm up work was with Robin van Persie. Rice was throwing the ball at the captain for him to volley and head back to him. Will that have been the final time either men will have been involved in a warm up at the Grove as Arsenal employees? It will certainly have been Rice's. But what of van Persie?

The newspapers are awash with stories this morning of interest in the Arsenal captain from Juventus following their general director Giuseppe Marotta speaking to the media about transfer targets for next season.

It should come as no surprise that van Persie's name is being spoken about by other clubs. However I don't believe an offer from Italy is an attractive one for a player who wants to play at the elite level of European football. Juventus may have won Serie A, but can they compete at the level Arsenal have for the last 16 years with Champions League football each year.

I've been confident for a while that Robin will stay at the club. Finishing third would cement that feeling that he'll sign a new deal. And even if he decides not to put pen to paper this summer, I'm sure the club won't sell him. You can't go out and buy another top quality striker with van Persie's qualities easily.

Robin has already said he'll sit down with the club at the end of the season and it's something the club are keen to do.

Chairman Peter Hill Wood speaking to the Daily Star said:

"We haven’t talked to Robin yet, but I spoke to Arsene (Wenger) recently. He is very confident he will stay and I very much hope he will. 
"He has had a wonderful season with us. 
"We have had no official approaches from any other club, as far as I am aware."

Finish third with a win at West Brom on Sunday and our summer plans will fall into place. I don't want to think about what the off season will be like if we don't.

We've also got to tie up a deal for Theo Walcott and interestingly in his Daily Star interview the chairman says no progress has been made with the England international just yet. Walcott is due to return to training today or tomorrow ahead of Sunday's game. It would put us in a much stronger position if he were fit to play.

Elsewhere the deal to bring Yann M'Vila to the club has gone quiet. Nothing will happen this week, that's for certain. Arsenal have registered an interest in the player but from what I've been told, Rennes asking price is too high. Inter Milan are the other club interested in the midfielder.

At the moment M'Vila will wait until the end of the season to decide where he wants to play next season. The Italians are very unlikely to make the Champions League, so that could be something which swings in our favour.

Despite Arsenal telling journalists they've withdrawn their interests, the club are still very much interested in the French international. They wouldn't have spent the last  two years watching him to pull out when they're on the verge of doing a deal.

We don't want this one to turn into a saga which plays out over the summer, so I would guess there will be movement next week once the domestic season is over.

The manager will host his pre-match press conference this lunchtime. I doubt we'll  hear anything on M'Vila but hopefully we''ll get some indication as to whether Theo Walcott will be involved.

Until tomorrow.

Follow Ashburton Grove on Twitter, chatting Arsenal throughout the day. To receive the blog everyday you can subscribe via e-mail or take the RSS feed to your favourite reader.

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