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 Posted by ESPN Staff
May 22, 2009

Arsenal could hand debut to rookie 'keeper Mannone

Arsenal fans could get another glimpse into the club's future should rookie goalkeeper Vito Mannone be handed an unexpected debut against Stoke in the final Premier League game of the season on Sunday.

Regular number one Manuel Almunia has been sidelined for a couple of weeks with an ankle injury, and Poland international Lukasz Fabianski is now rated as only 50/50 to face the Potters because of a knee problem.

Italian Mannone, 21, has been part of the senior side as an unused substitute in the past, but his only domestic league experience comes from four games while on loan at Barnsley back in 2006.

"Lukasz Fabianski has a problem with his knee, so Vito Mannone might get a call-up,'' said manager Arsene Wenger, who presumably could even ask Under-18 stopper James Shea into the senior squad as cover should Fabianski fail to be match fit.

"But we still have to assess Fabianski. He is 50/50 for the game at the moment.''

Midfielder Samir Nasri (knee) is ruled out, but otherwise Arsenal report no fresh injury problems from last weekend's game at Manchester United, which clinched the title for the Red Devils following a goalless draw.

Wenger, meanwhile, has allayed fears he was set to quit Emirates Stadium for Real Madrid following criticism by some supporters in the wake of a fourth campaign without silverware, and will set about strengthening the squad over the summer while also seemingly prepared to allow unsettled Togo striker Emmanuel Adebayor to leave the club.

Andrei Arshavin has netted six times from 14 appearances since arriving from Zenit St Petersburg on deadline day in January.

The Russian - who hit all four goals at Liverpool - believes with a full preparation, he can prove even more of an asset for the kick off in August.

"I have only been at the club since January, so the new campaign will give me a chance to have a full pre-season and I think it will benefit me and the club,'' Arshavin said.

"I have settled in quickly, though, and am looking forward to the challenges of the new season - one that we all hope will see us bring some trophies to the club for the players and the fans.''

Chief executive Ivan Gazidis maintains Wenger, contracted until 2011, continues to have the "full, unequivocal support'' of the Arsenal board, who will once again back the manager in the transfer market.

It is understood Wenger is likely to have around £25million to spend should he so wish, much more than previously reported, with proceeds from the run to the semi-finals of the Champions League set to be ploughed back into the squad.

Major shareholder Alisher Usmanov has also indicated he would be willing to meet some of the club's long-term debt payments to help free up more cash for team building.

However, Wenger last week insisted he was not the man to "get the club bust'', and is once more expected to be prudent in his transfer dealings.

Both AC Milan and Chelsea said to be ready to make a £20m bid for Adebayor, who was on the verge of heading to the Rossoneri 12 months ago and has looked a shadow of the player which netted 30 goals the previous season.

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