By Chris Harris

Arsène Wenger has stressed that he “200 per cent” wants Pat Rice to continue in his role amid speculation over the Assistant Manager’s future.

Wenger’s right-hand man has given more than 40 years of service to the Club, having joined Arsenal as a 15-year-old apprentice in 1964. Rice went on to make 528 appearances for the Gunners, winning the Double in 1971 and lifting the FA Cup as captain in 1979.

He has been a trusted lieutenant to Wenger on the Arsenal bench since the Frenchman arrived in North London in 1996 but has yet to confirm if he will stay on beyond this season.

“There have been talks about that,” revealed Wenger. “He will be at the end of his contract at the end of the season. He will not go anywhere else. So will he stay or stop? I don’t know. I hope he will continue. “Yes [it is Pat’s decision]. In this case I am the Club and I want him to continue. I want to persuade him.

“He wants to be sure he can be completely 100 per cent committed. He’s not a guy who does half or thinks half. He gives absolutely everything. He must think as well [about his age]… in fact he’s my age!

“He has been vitally important because when I arrived here he was a man of the Club. He’s a man who knows the British culture, and he’s a winner. He is a guy who is ready to give his life to win and you want to be surrounded with people like that.

“You can trust him, he is reliable, he has fantastic football knowledge and he never talks [outside the Club]. That is vital. Some people are confused, they think it is more important to talk  outside.”

Chelsea lost their assistant manager in rather different circumstances earlier this season when Ray Wilkins’ contract was not extended. His departure coincided with the start of the champions’ current poor run but Wenger doesn’t think Rice’s situation bears comparison.

“From my side, there’s no hesitation. I want him 200 per cent to continue,” he said.

“It’s only a desire from me. I know how valuable he is for the Club and for me, and I want him to go on.

“At the moment there’s more chance he remains at the Club than he leaves. There’s a 90 per cent chance that he will go on. It’s important to keep him, as important as keeping a big player. But there’s a 90 per cent chance that he’ll stay.”

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31 Dec 2010