Pires keen to sign new deal with Arsenal

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The Independent Online

The Arsenal winger Robert Pires has reassured his manager, Arsène Wenger, that he has no intention of leaving Highbury this summer and is keen to sign a new contract.

The Arsenal winger Robert Pires has reassured his manager, Arsène Wenger, that he has no intention of leaving Highbury this summer and is keen to sign a new contract.

Pires was among those players revealed in a weekend report to be at risk of being offloaded this summer as part of a clear-out to fund new purchases, such as Shaun Wright-Phillips.

While Jose Antonio Reyes seems to be unsettled and Arsenal must fight to keep hold of Ashley Cole, Pires stressed he does not want to leave the club.

To stay put, Pires would need to sign a new contract as his current deal expires in the summer of 2006. He may have to agree to a short-term deal, given that he is now 31, and Arsenal's club policy is to offer at most two years to any player in his 30s.

Pires revealed: "I would like to stay here. It doesn't depend entirely on me though, it is up to Arsène Wenger and [the vice-chairman] David Dein."

Sol Campbell made his first appearance since 1 February on Monday night when he took part in a reserve game against Norwich.

Campbell, who has been out with a persistent ankle injury, played the full 90 minutes in the 4-0 win and is on course for a return to the first team for the club's FA Cup semi-final against Blackburn on 16 April.

Campbell, himself, was reluctant to speculate on when he will next play for the first team. He said: "It is up to the gaffer when I come back."

The England international then stated his intention to travel to the United States for a post-season tour to fight for his place in the national team - despite Wenger making his opposition to the two-match tour clear.

Campbell's international place is coming under increasing threat from the Chelsea centre-back John Terry and he is keen to reaffirm his commitment to the England cause. "I would be happy to be on the tour if I am picked. In fact, two more games would be no problem and then I can have a five or six-week break before the next pre-season," he concluded.

The Arsenal goalkeeper Jens Lehmann has been banned for two European matches after throwing water over the referee and a linesman following Arsenal's Champions' League exit in March.

The sport's European governing body, Uefa, announced the punishment yesterday, saying Lehmann had twice thrown water over the Italian referee Massimo De Santis and a linesman in the players' tunnel after Arsenal's 1-0 win over Bayern Munich at Highbury on 9 March. Despite their win, Arsenal lost the first knock-out round tie 3-2 on aggregate.

Uefa said that the German international was found guilty of "a deliberate pestering act" that displayed a "striking lack of respect towards the referee".

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