Wenger ponders gamble on unpredictable Roa

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The Independent Online

The Arsenal manager, Arsène Wenger, is growing anxious about signing a new goalkeeper before the transfer window closes in 10 days.

The Arsenal manager, Arsène Wenger, is growing anxious about signing a new goalkeeper before the transfer window closes in 10 days.

The club have refused to confirm a report linking them with the controversial former Argentina goalkeeper Carlos Roa.

He is out of contract at Real Mallorca, from whom Arsenal signed the Cameroonian Lauren two years ago, and Wenger is said to be weighing up the 33-year-old as a possible understudy to the England veteran David Seaman. But an Arsenal spokesperson said: "This is only speculation and we never comment on that."

Wenger reluctantly sold his reserve keeper Richard Wright to Everton for £4million before the start of the season. Then a bid to bring in the Uruguayan international Fabian Carini on a year's loan collapsed last week over the Juventus player's wage demands.

Now the Arsenal manager admits he suspects Carini will join Manchester United but Wenger has only 22-year-old Stuart Taylor as deputy to Seaman. To compound matters, the North London club are unable to recall their third-choice, Graham Stack, the Republic of Ireland Under-21 international, from a season's loan at the Belgian club Beveren.

On the face of it, Roa's vast experience would make him an ideal back-up signing. He was the hero of Argentina's World Cup penalty shoot-out triumph over England four years ago and he was Real Mallorca's first choice up until last season.

But reports of his bizarre behaviour off the field and his unusual religious beliefs have attracted controversial headlines. He is apparently a devout Seventh Day Adventist who publicly prophesied the end of the world in 2001.

Roa has been in regular disputes with Mallorca and, previously, Racing Club of Argentina over playing on Sundays. At one stage in 2000 he walked out on Mallorca who still owed him £106,000 in wages, apparently intending to quit football and settle back in his native Santa Fe on a remote farm with his wife and two children.

However, he returned to the Spain last season despite being quoted as saying: "I was a footballer because God had a plan for me but I never wanted to be. I didn't like it and it didn't interest me."

Roa, who won 16 caps for Argentina, made only 13 first-team appearances last term, though. He did not play in either of two Champions' League games against Arsenal.

At the end of the season he failed to agree terms for a new contract with Mallorca and is now a free agent.

Meanwhile, Wenger will be relieved that the Football Association have ruled out taking any action against the England full-back Ashley Cole for his part in the incident that saw Birmingham's Aliou Cissé sent off for a second yellow card at Highbury on Sunday.

Referee Mike Riley, having watched a video of the tackle, admitted it was not worth a booking and the red card that resulted was quashed by the FA, who have now ruled that Cole will not face a charge of diving to get Cissé sent off.

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