Arsene Wenger is so adamant that Patrick Vieira will not be leaving Highbury this summer that he has insisted any plans to buy a new midfielder in the close season have been scrapped.
The Arsenal manager has been linked with a £15m move for Mark van Bommel, the PSV Eindhoven midfielder, while he has made no secret of his admiration for West Ham United's Michael Carrick. However, Wenger's belief that Vieira is staying, the impressive development of Edu and some youngsters waiting in the wings at Arsenal have apparently led Wenger to concentrate his summer spending elsewhere.
Wenger, who will lose Gilles Grimandi this summer, said: "We rate Michael Carrick very highly but this is not the best moment to speak about that. For next season, I think we won't buy any midfielders. We already have many midfielders and Edu has done extremely well. We also have some younger players we want to push up into the first team next season. But I'm just focused on finishing this season well first."
The youngsters to whom Wenger refers include Jermaine Pennant, Jon Halls, Sebastian Svard, Jeremie Aliadiere and Moritz Volz. He also believes Robert Pires should be back in action in six months after undergoing a cruciate ligament operation in France. "I expect to see him back in October or November," Wenger said.
For the moment, Wenger's sights are still trained upon winning the title and victory against West Ham at Highbury would take Arsenal to their 10th consecutive League win. His side have no new injury worries, with Sol Campbell due to return from his hamstring problem against Bolton next Monday while Oleg Luzhny and Sylvain Wiltord are still ruled out.
Victory in the Gunners' match in hand would lift them four points ahead of Liverpool and five ahead of Manchester United. "Of course, it's a very big game in that respect. West Ham have a very good technical level and we will have to play 90 minutes of a top passing game to beat them," Wenger said.
Nigel Winterburn, the West Ham defender, will face some old friends across the Highbury pitch tonight with the chance to upset Arsenal's title charge.
The former Gunners left-back is probably in his last season in the top flight, having been told he will not be offered a new contract at Upton Park when his current deal expires this summer, and so is likely to be returning to the home of many past glories for the last time.
However, the 38-year-old will be doing his former employers no favours as West Ham look to gain only their second top-seven finish in the last nine years.
Winterburn has not spoken to former his team-mates Tony Adams, Lee Dixon, and Martin Keown ahead of the game and has no plans to do so. "I won't be talking to them this week because every game they play now is a big one, almost like a cup final, so I just have to let them get on with it," he said.
"We are certainly on a fantastic run at the moment, and the main point is to show the desire to do well. There is no doubt that after the start we had to the season there were a lot of questions asked by a lot of people and the players, managers, and staff have answered those in the best way possible.
"We are just going in the right direction, we want to keep it within our own hands to finish seventh, and if we keep doing what we are doing, that will happen."
However, Winterburn is not guaranteed to start the match despite being recalled to the team by their manager Glenn Roeder for Saturday's 3-0 victory at home to Sunderland. "I don't even know if I will be playing so I will be banging on Glenn's door again and I was delighted he put me back in the team on Saturday," Winterburn admitted.
"Hopefully he will play me... but it is not just about myself, it is about the team and we want to get the points."Reuse content