Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Arsenal Bid to Banish a Holiday Headache; A Win Tonight Will Seal Third Place and Avoid Need for Euro Play-Off, Allowing Players to Enjoy Summer

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Arsenal Bid to Banish a Holiday Headache; A Win Tonight Will Seal Third Place and Avoid Need for Euro Play-Off, Allowing Players to Enjoy Summer

Article excerpt

Byline: James Olley Chief Football Correspondent

TOMAS ROSICKY believes Arsenal have not had many happy summer holidays recently. The Gunners have finished fourth in six of the last nine seasons, instigating a period of uncertainty over whether they will reach the Champions League group stages.

Potential signings are deterred by the lack of guaranteed involvement in Europe's premier competition. The vital task of starting their Premier League campaign well is complicated by the addition of two high-profile playoff fixtures in August.

It is a testament to Arsene Wenger's enduring qualities that the Gunners have an unblemished record in navigating a path through such a minefield during his 19 years in charge.

Victory tonight against Sunderland at Emirates Stadium, however, would guarantee a third-place finish and ensure the players can switch off during the close season while Wenger plans a front-foot assault from day one next term.

"It is really important that you are not playing in those qualification matches," said Rosicky. "You don't who you can get there are some very tricky teams. You are going into the holiday period knowing you have not qualified. OK, you have finished fourth and you will play qualification.

"It is two massive games, they are always very close. The teams you are playing against fight for their lives. It is an unbelievable chance for them.

"So it is important that you can go to your holiday with a clean head, not thinking about that and know you are there. That is the motivation for finishing in third place."

Whether Rosicky will return to Arsenal from his summer break remains unclear. The club have an option to extend his contract by a further year an agreement which would trigger a testimonial for the 34-year-old, who joined the club in 2006 but a final decision has not been taken. …

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