Fabregas saga to keep running

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 Premier

League club over his immediate future. Fabregas, 24, 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. 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 ready to test the Gunners’ resolve.

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.

Given teenage defender Carl Jenkinson has so far been the only

confirmed signing, in a £1m move from Charlton, many Gunners

fans are becoming frustrated by the club’s lack of movement in a

summer transfer market which has seen their rivals already

strengthen in numbers. Supporters group ‘Where has our Arsenal

gone’ – who organised a protest march about a 6.5% ticket price

rise before the final home game of last season – are becoming

concerned, but also hit out at those players not ready to dig in

for the Gunners’ cause. “As supporters of Arsenal we don’t want to

see our best players leave. However, if they try and hold the club

to ransom with extortionate wage demands or if they don’t want to

play for the club, we should let them leave – as long as the club

is suitably remunerated,” a statement read. “No player is bigger

than the club and as much as they may have kissed the badge in the

past, they will never have as much affinity for ‘The Arsenal’ as we

do. So thanks for your service but if you don’t want to be here,

good luck elsewhere.” The statement concluded: “We are back in

pre-season training and no established quality has been brought in

to bolster the squad, and there’s still complete silence from the

club’s new majority shareholder [Stan Kroenke] with no comment

regarding his intentions for the club. “All these factors are

making fans feel very concerned for our prospects in the coming