At least one, if not two of the four players in the title will leave in the close season, I'm pretty sure of it.
Which players it will actually be is another matter.
After a season of speculation, I think everyone assumed it would be Th or Ash, but I'm now fairly certain that they'll both stay. How could Tel leave after Saturday? The post-match interview said it all: he's as much a gooner as any of us . The near delight he took in denying Spurs Europe was palpable, as he talked about having to endure the 'are you watching Arsenal' chants during Spurs game against Bolton. 'yes i was' I think was his answer, with 'And are you watching now?' his implied rebuttal. He can play in the CL with us next year. He is the centre-piece of an exciting new team, built around him. The team are moving to one of the best new stadiums in Europe. He has his great mentor, Arsene, near him. He could still leave, and I would respect his decision to do so, but i really think that if he recognises that this season was one of transition, he'll stay at the club and look to the future with the rest of us.
As for Ash, I really hope he stays. Ash is an old-school football playboy, revelling in his rapid social ascension. He's bling, and sometimes annoyingly so, but he is a great, great player, to my mind the best left-back in the world. Players as good as Ash, you have to forgive their dalliances. His liason with Chelsea was a mistake. He knows it, I'm sure, and I wish he'd stop pursuing these 'martyr of free-trade' cases which I'm sure his agent is pushing him toward. If he spoke publicly to the fans and admitted his mistake, the issue would not exist. I, and I'm sure many others would forgive him, and he could continue building toward the captain's armband that was surely destined for him. As it is, 50/50 he'll stay. If the club gets a sizeable bid, there's a real chance they'll accept; especially as their pride was wounded by the entire tapping up incident. Add to that Arsene's strident distaste of party boys, and Ash may have a foot out the door. As i said earlier, I hope not. Even in the mere two games since he's been fully back, it's been a joy to see him at LB. I almost feel bad for betraying the Flamster after his heroics, but if fit, Ash should start in Paris, if we're serious about victory. Overall, whilst I disagree with the level of wages played to current players, I think the club was taking him for a ride before the farrago broke. If they'd hadn't prevaricated over whether to pay him 60 not 55 k a week, none of this would be an issue, and I think that's a wage Ash deserves. On balance, I think there's a great chance he could still stay this summer. It depends on how much each party is willing to put behind them.
So, my bet as for the big name who will leave the club this summer lies with Sol or Bobby. Sol didn't so much burn his bridges as atomise Tower bridge with his defection against West Ham. It's been good to see him back in the team, but he isn't the player he was. A firm bid from the likes of Newcastle could see him skiddadle up North. Bobby, I hope stays. Unless we get a Beckham-esque, experienced winger figure in for next year, Bobby is definitely worth an extra year. He's not worth two though, which is why i can see Arsene's reluctance to offer him any more, and Bobby's contemplation to go elsewhere. There's a real chance he'll be in Spain next year i feel.
Ok, two last things. Firstly, congratulations to Alistair Cook and Marcus Trescothick on fine innings today for England. Secondly, commiserations to Boro on their defeat last night. They didn't deserve to be hammered like that after the excitement they've brought to the competition this year, and I still think they've done the premiership proud. Although, I Hope this is not a portent for either England or us next week...
On that bombshell of terror, adieu for now.