Barcelona complete Van Bronckhorst loan deal

As Arsenal's players were preparing for tonight's visit of Aston Villa their manager, Arsène Wenger, confirmed that one of their number, Giovanni van Bronckhorst, was on his way to Barcelona on a one-season loan.

The 28-year-old former Rangers and Feyenoord player, who can operate at left-back or in midfield, has been unable to command a regular place in Wenger's team. Van Bronckhorst joined Arsenal from Rangers for £8.5m in 2001 but his time at Highbury has been blighted by injury, which hampered his chances of establishing himself. He made only 15 starts for the club last season and was left out of Arsenal's 4-0 win at Middlesbrough on Sunday.

His cause has not been helped by injury: he sustained a cruciate knee ligament problem in February 2002, which kept him out of action until the start of 2003, but the England international, Ashley Cole, is Wenger's first-choice left-back and Arsenal have an abundance of talent in midfield.

Wenger said: "Barcelona wanted in a loan deal for the rest of the season, with a view to a transfer afterwards. There is such competition in midfield that I have eight or nine players who all want to play and there is line between having too much and the right amount of competition for places.

"Giovanni also wants to play at left-back and I have Ashley Cole, who is an England international, there."

The transfer deadline is on Sunday and the Barca coach, Frank Rijkaard, who had van Bronckhorst in his squad when he coached the Netherlands at Euro 2000, was determined to strengthen the left side of his team.

Wenger is deliberating whether to keep a settled line-up at home to Aston Villa tonight, with only Francis Jeffers (suspended), Pascal Cygan and Philippe Senderos (both injured) ruled out. Wenger must decide between Dennis Bergkamp and Sylvain Wiltord up front, while Kolo Touré may retain his place in defence ahead of Martin Keown.

David O'Leary is likely to field an unchanged side for the trip to the club where he spent nearly two decades as a player. O'Leary is expected to keep faith with the players who drew 0-0 with Liverpool at Villa Park on Sunday.

The central defender Olof Mellberg is expected to lead Villa side, although O'Leary has yet to decide on who he wants as a permanent replacement as captain for Steve Staunton.

The striker Marcus Allback is the only major injury casualty at the club. He has a hamstring injury suffered while on duty for Sweden last week.

Also in the Premiership tonight, Liverpool host Tottenham with Emile Heskey's participation doubtful because of a calf injury. The striker was taken off during the game at Villa on Sunday after being kicked on the calf, the same injury he sustained playing for England earlier in the week.

Heskey has had treatment but his manager, Gérard Houllier, may decide to give him a rest and allow Milan Baros to play up front or move Harry Kewell into a more central attacking role.

Vladimir Smicer, back from injury but only a substitute at Villa Park, could also come into consideration for an attacking midfield role.

Darren Anderton has been added to the Tottenham squad after missing the first two matches of the season with Achilles trouble. The Spurs manager, Glenn Hoddle, must decide whether to start with Frédéric Kanouté, who was Saturday's match winner against Leeds United, or use him again as a substitute.

Gus Poyet and Robbie Keane are still missing through injuries and there is no place in the squad for Chris Perry or the South African newcomer Mbulelo Mabizela.

Comments