Cesc Fabregas may have returned to start pre-season training at Arsenal, but faces a frustrating wait over just where he will start the new campaign as the Gunners look set to stand firm in Barcelona’s on-going pursuit of their captain.
Unlike 12 months ago, there has so far been no public statement by either the Spain midfielder or the Barclays Premier League club over his immediate future. Fabregas (thankfully) has reported back to London Colney, undergoing fitness work on his troublesome hamstring ahead of rejoining the full group later this week as Arsenal prepare for a short, but lucrative, trip to the Far East.
The Gunners – who are imminently expected to confirm the arrival of Ivory Coast striker Gervinho from Lille – have already rejected Barcelona’s starting offer of £27million. However, with Barca president Sandro Rossell now back from Copa America, the European Champions are determined to push through an improved deal, yet still below Arsenal’s £40million valuation, before Arsene Wenger’s squad head off to Malaysia.
There is, of course, no guarantee any agreement can be reached, which would leave Fabregas having little option but to join his current team-mates on the plane to spearhead the Gunners’ commercial drive in Kuala Lumpur and then China. Despite his exclusion in the new away kit promotion , Fabregas was part of the promotional shots for the preseason tour which is encouraging. Wenger, though, also knows from the experience of Thierry Henry’s final campaign, there is no benefit in keeping an unhappy player just for the sake of it.
Whatever transpires with the latest chapter of the on-going transfer saga, losing his captain the same week as long-serving full-back Gael Clichy joined title rivals Manchester City would be a severe blow to morale, which is already in need of a lift after another season which imploded over the final weeks.
Arsenal’s players have a staggered return to club duties this week, with contract rebel Samir Nasri not scheduled to return until Thursday, when the France midfielder is expectedly to tell Wenger whether he will commit to the Gunners cause, or look elsewhere for trophies, with Premier League champions Manchester United & City ready to test the Gunners’ resolve. But the club have now told Nasri’s representatives that he is NOT for sale.
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It is believed even £25m may not be enough to land the Frenchman, who returns to training tomorrow. Wenger is also convinced that a combination of a new contract, new signings such as Lille forward Gervinho and a promise of a more central role next season after Fabregas’ departure will be enough to persuade Nasri to stay.
Wenger is reported to hold many transfer targets this summer, but the sweeping changes predicted have so far failed to materialise – with those deemed now surplus to requirements, like Denmark striker Nicklas Bendtner, reporting back to Arsenal’s Hertfordshire base.
Much of course could still happen in both directions before the transfer window closes at 11pm on August 31, with the Arsenal manager likening the whole process to a game of poker.
England centre-back Gary Cahill is a long-term target for the Gunners, but yesterday Bolton rejected suggestions a £17m deal was on the table, while Southampton also insist no formal agreement has been done for highly-rated youngster Alex Chamberlain and Argentina starlet Ricardo Alvarez appears set for Inter Milan rather than Emirates Stadium.
Clichy’s departure has seen Newcastle left-back Jose Enrique emerge as a viable replacement, but with England international Kieran Gibbs already in the first-team picture, Wenger may well decide to put the reported £7m fee to better use on Lyon defender Aly Cissokho or indeed not spend it at all, and focus on purchasing two centre backs (Cahill & Samba) and deploying Vermaelen on the left.
Given teenage defender Carl Jenkinson has so far been the only confirmed signing, in a £1m move from Charlton, many Gunners fans (including us) are becoming frustrated by the club’s lack of movement in a summer transfer market which has seen their rivals already strengthen in numbers.
If Wenger can convince Nasri to stay, buys Gervinho and purchases at least one more centre back and either another centre back or a left back, then the team will look promising. But if Fabregas leaves also then we will need to replace him in some form, perhaps not another attacking central midfielder, but maybe a solid central midfielder. We have to be realistic with the likes of Ramsey, Wilshire, Rosicky, Song that will definitely be around next season, and perhaps youngster Ryo Myachi will be called up to the first team.