Well, friends, we have come to the final weekend of another season, one which did not bring any trophies for The Arsenal but did see the club reach the semifinals of both the UEFA Champions League and the FA Cup during this 2008-09 campaign.
The team’s final league match will see Stoke City visit the Emirates on Sunday. Regardless of the outcome, the Gunners will officially end up as fourth-place finishers in the Barclays Premier League, good enough to qualify (at the third-round qualifying stage) for next season’s Champions League.
There are no new injury concerns for Arsene Wenger’s side going into the final fixture, with goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski recovering from a knee problem and passed fit to start against Stoke.
While first-teamers William Gallas, Gael Clichy, Manuel Almunia and Eduardo had previously been ruled out for the season, Wenger reported no new injuries at his pre-match press conference on Friday. But the French manager did add that Emmanuel Adebayor has not shaken off the groin problem which ruled him out of last week’s draw at Manchester United.
“Emmanuel Adebayor has a groin problem and he won’t play,” Wenger confirmed on http://www.arsenal.com. Yet this announcement will only further fuel speculation that the striker from Togo might be on his way out of the club come summer, as rumors have already linked him with a transfer to AC Milan.
Yet, when questioned Friday on Adebayor’s future at the Emirates, Wenger said his “gut feeling” is that Adebayor will be at Arsenal next season.
“At the moment his future is at the club,” said Wenger at his pre-match press conference. “He has a long contract and we want to keep him at the club. I am hopeful I will be able to keep him.”
The manager also addressed his own future with the club, reiterating to reporters that he remains committed to Arsenal. Reports surfaced earlier in the week that Real Madrid were interested in luring Wenger to Spain, with the Frenchman even quoted as believing the potential manager’s position at the Bernabeu to be “an interesting project.”
But Wenger re-affirmed his loyalty to Arsenal at his final pre-match press conference of the season, saying “I believe I have always shown my commitment to this club.”
“I cannot deny every noise or contact I have. My commitment is as strong as ever and if one day it changes I will inform you,” he continued. “I don’t want to talk about that (the Madrid speculation), because that is endless.”
Other player-related Arsenal updates on this final weekend include a decision released by the FA yesterday that cleared Cesc Fabregas of two improper conduct charges related to the aftermath of an FA Cup match earlier this season.
As http://www.arsenal.com’s Declan Taylor reports, the Gunners captain captain was “under inquiry for his actions in the aftermath of Arsenal’s FA Cup quarterfinal victory over Hull City on March 17. But, at a regulatory commission hearing, the two charges against Fabregas were found ‘not proved.'”
One charge concerned his conduct after coming onto the pitch following the final whistle. The second charge related to an allegation of spitting.
“It is a relief because personally I always believed he was innocent,” manager Wenger said at the Friday press conference. “That it has been confirmed by the FA is very good news for us.”
Some more good news came with the impressive performance and result by Arsenal’s “young guns” in the first leg of the FA Youth Cup Final on Friday, where the Gunners won 4-1 over Liverpool.
Dominating at times in front of a crowd of 33,000 at the Emirates, Arsenal notched a pair of goals in each half in the emphatic win. (You can view all the goals at http://www.soccerclips.net) Gilles Sunu, Jack Wilshere, Sanchez Watt and Jay-Emmanuel Thomas each hit the back of the net for the Gunners, who’ll take a three-goal advantage to Anfield in the final’s second leg on May 26.