Cole insists he is 'fully committed' to Arsenal cause

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The Independent Football

It is not just the politicians who have to be on-message at this time of year. Yesterday, Arsenal's spinmeisters moved into damage limitation mode as Ashley Cole was wheeled on to the club's website to pledge his allegiance.

When Cole was asked, in the wake of Arsenal's FA Cup semi-final victory on Saturday, whether he would be staying at Highbury next season, he froze. Eventually he said: "It's just hard for me to say at the moment."

He was then ushered away by an Arsenal media official, who returned to indicate that Cole's hesitation was due to the ongoing Premier League inquiry into his alleged "tapping-up" by Chelsea.

Too late, the damage was done. Yesterday morning several headlines suggested that Cole procrastinated as he was Chelsea-bound. Cue his appearance on the Arsenal website yesterday.

"I find it frustrating to say the least that some of today's newspapers are second guessing my thoughts and stating that I have indicated to them any future plans I may have," Cole said.

"This simply is not the case. I totally understand that the fans want to know more about my situation but, with a Premier League inquiry under way, it is hard for me to talk as freely as I would like right now.

"The main thing I want to convey is that I have two years left on my contract here and it goes without saying that I am fully focused and fully committed to this football club."

Given that Cole has been charged with a breach of Rule K5, governing approaches by players to clubs after his meeting with Chelsea's chief executive, Peter Kenyon, and the manager, Jose Mourinho, it does not, of course, "go without saying" that Cole is "fully focused and fully committed" to Arsenal. The more Cole says it the better - if he is focused and committed to Arsenal, that is. Either way, he is sure to be a focus of attention tomorrow night when Arsenal visit Stamford Bridge.

They are likely to face Chelsea without Thierry Henry, who has not recovered from the groin injury that kept him out of Saturday's game, and Freddie Ljungberg, who was forced off with a hip injury in Cardiff. But Sol Campbell could feature.

"In my opinion Thierry will miss the game," said the Arsenal manager, Arsène Wenger. Of Campbell, who is fit, but rusty, after being out with an ankle injury, the Frenchman said: "I need to make a decision over whether to start him. He needs to play a game to find his level and get his confidence back."

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