Fabregas not on Portugal flight

Fabregas had been all smiles as he joined in with the rest of the

Gunners squad for training at London Colney on Friday morning ahead

of the flight to Portugal, but was not on the list of players the

Gunners confirmed as having actually made the trip in the evening.

Wenger had last week purposely omitted the Spaniard from the

Emirates Cup, admitting the player had become unsettled by

continued speculation over a move back to Barcelona. However, the

Gunners boss insisted the latest decision not to involve his key

man was down purely to the fact Fabregas was struggling to recover

from a hamstring problem which also prevented him from travelling

on the tour of Asia last month. “He is just coming back from injury

and is not ready to play in a game, but he is not injured,” Wenger

told a pre-match news conference in Lisbon, reported on the club’s

official website. “I do not want to speak about the transfer of

Fabregas because I have done that three years now in every press

conference so I don’t think there is any more need to add

something. “I love Fabregas and I want him to stay, that is

basically it. “Everybody is free to think what they want. We cannot

stop people raising questions.” Barcelona have already seen an

initial £27million offer firmly rebuffed earlier in the

summer, but remain determined to bring their former trainee back to

the Nou Camp. Arsenal, though, are standing firm in their

£40million valuation. Fabregas is now unlikely to lead the

team out at St James Park for the opening match of the Premier

League season at Newcastle next weekend. “I don’t think Fabregas

will be ready to start the season because he has been out for a

long time and has had no games,” Wenger said. If he played in

Arsenal’s Champions League play-off against Udinese, the midfielder

would then be cup-tied were a move to go through ahead of the

August 31 transfer deadline. The first leg of the qualifying tie –

necessary after Arsenal’s total collapse at the end of last season

– will be played at the Emirates Stadium on August 16. Wenger will

be in need of all the help he can muster, serving a one-match

touchline ban himself following UEFA disciplinary action in the

wake of his rant against Swiss referee Massimo Busacca in last

season’s away defeat to Barcelona. Midfielder Samir Nasri – who

misses Saturday’s friendly with a “muscular problem” – was also

sanctioned by UEFA for his outburst at Busacca, and will not be

available. Nor will striker Robin van Persie, whose suspension for

a controversial sending-off was carried over into Arsenal’s next

Champions League tie. While Arsenal were spared a long-haul trip to

eastern Europe in the draw, the timing of the play-off tie will see

the Gunners face a testing schedule which also includes Premier

League fixtures at Newcastle and Manchester United, with Liverpool

set to come to north London on August 20. “I would say [the draw

is] difficult, but possible,” Wenger said. “Who would want to play

against an Italian opponent? We know we will have to be at our best

to qualify.” Wenger continues to try to strengthen the squad, but

has so far been frustrated in his moves for Valencia winger Juan

Mata, along with English defensive duo Gary Cahill and Phil

Jagielka. The Gunners boss said: “Ideally I would have finished all

[our business], but it doesn’t work like that. “We work very hard,

we are non-stop working throughout the summer. “It’s all kinds of

things you meet during the transfer market, but I can understand

the impatience of people. “We want to add not quality, but super

quality. “We hope to give you some good news soon. Next week,

something might happen.” Neither Jack Wilshere nor Theo Walcott

trained with the rest of the group this morning because of ankle

problems, which is expected to impact on their involvement in next

week’s England friendly against Holland at Wembley. Meanwhile,

Nicklas Bendtner and Emmanuel Eboue have not been included as they

aim to push through respective moves to Sporting Lisbon and

Galatasaray.