Henry pleads for Cole to stay but Arsenal expect exit

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The Independent Online

Thierry Henry revealed yesterday that he has not given up trying to persuade Ashley Cole to stay at Arsenal, but the prospects of that looked increasingly unlikely yesterday when the England left-back did not feature in the club's traditional start-of-season team photograph taken at the new Emirates stadium.

While Jose Antonio Reyes, another player who seems destined to depart for Real Madrid, was in the picture, Cole's exclusion would appear to confirm that he will leave for Chelsea at some point this month.

Chelsea's lofty statement on Wednesday night that "no agreement can be reached in the current circumstances" over Cole was intended to encourage Arsenal to drop their asking price from £25m to £20m. However, while Arsenal now accept they will have to let the player leave - and Gaël Clichy has been told by Arsène Wenger that he will be first choice left-back when he returns to fitness - Henry said yesterday that he has not given up trying.

"I am trying [to persuade Cole] every day," he said. "At the moment I am training with him so I am trying to persuade him, but sometimes in football you have to respect the guy's decision. I don't even really want to go into what is happening, that is not my job.

"I am trying to persuade Ashley to stay, but we are all human beings and he knows what he is doing. If he goes, the only thing I can say is I wish him good luck, but we have to move on. Seeing him going there [Chelsea] is kind of strange but after that, if he goes there, I will still speak to him, I will still phone him, I will still have a laugh with him. Wherever he is going - if he's going - you have to say that. The thing for me is that he is leaving us."

Henry conceded it was more difficult to persuade Reyes not to leave because the Spanish winger, who joined Arsenal in January 2004, had not yet mastered English. "Last season when Patrick [Vieira] left was difficult, because the impact he had on the team was big," Henry said. "This time I think the team can build on something they have done.

"We did not win the Champions' League, but you can build on that - the team has a past. Some of the young players who came in, they were in an unknown position, but now they know they can do a great job. The team will not start as low as last year when Patrick left."

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