I'm '100 per cent' certain Cole will stay, says Wenger

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The Independent Football

Arsène Wenger yesterday stood defiant against Chelsea when he announced on the eve of Arsenal's visit to Stamford Bridge that he was "100 per cent certain" that Ashley Cole would resist the lure of Roman Abramovich's wealth and stay at Highbury.

Arsène Wenger yesterday stood defiant against Chelsea when he announced on the eve of Arsenal's visit to Stamford Bridge that he was "100 per cent certain" that Ashley Cole would resist the lure of Roman Abramovich's wealth and stay at Highbury.

After the great saga of Chelsea's alleged illegal approach to Cole, the focus on the England international is likely to be intense tonight, but the Arsenal manager said he was confident that the left-back could handle the scrutiny awaiting him. Chelsea require just two wins to seal the Premiership title, and Arsenal face the champions-elect without the injured Thierry Henry and doubts over the fitness of Sol Campbell.

"I have spoken to him [Cole] over the weekend. I'm not really concerned because I know Ashley is a winner," Wenger said. "What is most important for him when he is on the pitch is to win the game, no matter where it is or whom he plays for. So I have no special concern. He will deal with the situation. I think he has enough experience now to deal with that."

"I said from the start we could only be losers in this story. We wanted to know what happened and we did not take any action against Ashley Cole at the club, so we cannot be seen to be guilty for that. We just wanted to see what happened. You cannot accept that people just come under your window and talk to your wife every night without asking what's happening there."

With a decision imminent from the independent commission set up by the Premier League to investigate the charges made against Chelsea, Jose Mourinho, the club's manager, and Cole for their now infamous meeting at the Royal Park Hotel on 27 January, Wenger said that the player wanted to stay at Highbury. "He has a contract, it's my desire [Cole stays] and I think he's happy here," Wenger said. "I'm 100 per cent certain he will stay and sign a new contract."

The Cole saga may represent a concern for Chelsea but they have since become involved in the dispute over Rio Ferdinand's future after the publication of pictures of Kenyon in a restaurant with the Manchester United defender this month. Wenger said the speculation surrounding Ferdinand - who was told yesterday by Sir Alex Ferguson that he should end the controversy by signing a new contract - was United's problem but reminded Chelsea that they should respect the Premier League's rules.

"That's why I feel it is important that the rules are respected by everybody," Wenger said. "The competition is fantastic when everybody respects the rules. If they are better than us, they are better than us and we have to accept that and fight against that. But you have to make sure that everything around [off] the field is right."

Mourinho, after his widely anticipated interview on Portuguese television on Monday night, left it to his assistant Steve Clarke to head off new criticism of his club's transfer conduct.

"I don't think the Ashley Cole thing will [have an effect tonight] because it has been rumbling on a long time," Clarke said. "I think enough has been said about it, it is in the hands of the Premier League now for both parties and we just have to let it run its course. I don't think that will be any significant edge on the game."

The Premier League has confirmed that Cole's "tapping-up" hearing will be held on 17 and 18 May.

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