Top-four so vital - Koscielny
Mon, 20 May 2013 12:11:00
Liverpool midfielder Raheem Sterling has had a charge of common assault dropped after a witness failed to turn up to court.
The 18-year-old was not required to appear at Liverpool Magistrates' Court and the case was dismissed when prosecutor Rob Jones offered no evidence.
The Jamaican-born England player had been accused of assaulting a woman in Toxteth, Liverpool, last November, allegations he denies.
Sterling is understood to have waited in a people carrier, along with Reds manager Brendan Rodgers, his agent and other club officials, around the corner from the Magistrates' Court and did not enter the building for the 10am case to be called on.
His legal costs will now be paid for by the taxpayer so he would not be "out of pocket" the court heard.
Sterling was charged with common assault on the 27-year-old victim, who is known to the player, after she suffered "slight" facial injuries.
He had entered a formal not guilty plea through his lawyers at the last hearing in March but exact details of the incident are not known as the case was never formally opened in court.
Liverpool have declined to comment on the case.
Sterling, who has not played since April because of injury, was called up to the full England squad for his senior international debut last November against Sweden.
The Gunners ended the Barclays Premier League campaign with an astonishing undefeated run of eight wins from the final 10 matches to move back ahead of north London rivals Tottenham and seal a top-four finish following the 1-0 victory at Newcastle.
Arsenal will, of course, still have to negotiate a potentially tricky two-legged Champions League play-off round qualifier in August before they can focus on a remarkable 16th campaign of elite European football.
However, with that now very much on the horizon, the club can move into the summer break with a completely different outlook from the one they faced when slipping seven points behind Spurs after defeat at White Hart Lane on March 3.
France international Koscielny, whose second half goal at St James' Park proved crucial, feels everyone deserves great credit for the superb collective effort over the run-in.
"It is very important for the club to be in the Champions League," he said, quoted on Arsenal's official website.
"The team played well and gave themselves for the team.
"We are all good players and we want to play Champions League. It is a big competition. We did the job and we are happy."
Manager Arsene Wenger feels his side have gone some way to answering their critics following their end to what had been a frustrating campaign - including the lows of cup defeats by Bradford and Blackburn, before a Champions League masterclass from Bayern Munich at the Emirates Stadium only to then outplay the Germans when winning the second leg of the last-16 tie.
"The exceptional attitude and determination of this group of players has been rewarded," Wenger said.
"They continued to believe when we were seven points behind Tottenham in mid-March. [They knew] that we had no room for error any more and you could never see any sign of giving in."
Wenger feels Arsenal can use their experiences over the past two months to hit the ground running in the quest to finally end their long trophy drought in 2013/2014.
Arsenal will be proactive in the summer transfer market, with the free transfer of France Under-21 forward Yaya Sanogo from Auxerre expected to be the first of several new arrivals.
Wenger is understood to have targeted offensive additions this summer, with the likes of Fiorentina's Stevan Jovetic, Real Madrid frontman Gonzalo Higuain and even England forward Wayne Rooney all said to be on the Arsenal manager's radar, as is Borussia Dortmund defender Lukasz Piszczek and even Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar, who is set to leave relegated QPR.
Wenger, tough, warned finding the right man at the right price is set to be another test.
"We have been remarkably consistent. We won every away game so it's a good springboard for next season, to transfer that belief into the start of next season, that means we need stability and to strengthen our group if possible," he said.
"However, there are many clubs out there with a lot of money so the competition is very hard - there is not as much talent as money today in football."
England midfielder Jack Wilshere, meanwhile, is now set for surgery on his troublesome ankle, which while ruling him out of the friendlies against the Republic of Ireland and Brazil, should see the 21-year-old return fully fit for the start of the new season and the autumn World Cup qualifiers.