Cesc Fabregas to Barcelona? Not yet says Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger

Gunners boss remains defiant but Barca claim Cesc will be theirs this weekend

Everybody thought it was coming to an end – but Arsene Wenger has other ideas. On the eve of the new season the summer’s longest-running transfer saga is still going strong - Cesc Fabregas is still an Arsenal player.

Despite 48 hours of intense speculation that the Gunners captain was about to finally return to his hometown club, Barcelona, Wenger faced the media on Friday morning and denied that any such agreement has been reached.

“I expect nobody to leave,” said Wenger defiantly. “The best thing for us one day before the championship starts is to focus on possible transfers. At the moment there is no news. If there is news I promise I will give it. I will decide what’s best for the club.

“My personal feelings are not important. What is important is the club and how well we do. I have not been disappointed with their [Fabregas and Samir Nasri’s] attitudes. They are professionals. I take nothing personally. The transfer speculation is disruptive but that is not an excuse.”

“We hope it will be sorted out very quickly one way or the other. We’ll know very quickly,” said Wenger, but he did not reveal whether or not Arsenal have accepted Barcelona’s latest bid for the 24-year-old midfielder and captain.

That is believed to be an offer of �31m with a potential �5m in add-ons, and the noises coming out of the Nou Camp are that the deal is all but done, and that Fabregas will return to Spain by the end of the weekend.

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The Barca goalkeeper Victor Valdes, revealed on Friday morning: “The deal is not yet done, but it will be done in a matter of hours. Barca are signing a great player who was formed here and he fits the profile of player the coach wants.”

Wenger, however, insisted that was not yet the case and also that Nasri was not on the verge of joining Manchester City, although neither player will see action this weekend. Wenger also confirmed Arsenal are no closer to completing any signings of their own.

“The Nasri situation is stable,” said Wenger. “Again it is very difficult to speak about possible transfers but we are in a situation where we have to make decisions one way or the other. Ideally you want it to be sorted out before the season starts.

“We have a big squad and while demands to bring players in are high, we are all working on it. The fact that big clubs are coming for our players tells you that they are all finding it difficult to find players. It is not as easy as it seems.”

If Arsenal fans were a little confused at those comments from their manager, there was at least some concrete information in the form of who is available to start the season at Newcastle on Saturday, and there was mixed news on that front.

While there were boosts in that Thomas Vermaelen, Kieran Gibbs and Robin van Persie have all recovered from knocks they picked up at Benfica last weekend, Jack Wilshere’s ankle injury has not improved sufficiently for him to make the trip to St James’ Park.

“During pre-season we were more disturbed by transfer noise than injuries,” said a surprisingly light-hearted Wenger. “We already knew that [Abou] Diaby would not start the season, but he is improving steadily.

“We did not know that Wilshere would not start the season, that is our only bad surprise. But it is not a threatening injury, it is an inflamed ankle and we hope he will be back with us soon. Overall, this has been the best pre-season medically for a long time.”

Wenger’s other England international midfielder,Theo Walcott, is fit however and is in the squad for Saturday.

“Theo [is back in the squad, this is much quicker than I thought,” added Wenger, who must now decide who to select in a makeshift midfield.

Alex Song and Aaron Ramsey will probably be joined by Tomas Rosicky in the central trio, with Gervinho making his Premier League debut on one flank and either Walcott or Andrey Arshavin on the other, with Van Persie leading the line and likely to wear the captain’s armband.

At the back, Vermaelen and Johan Djourou will expect to be the central pairing, with Gibbs at left-back and Bacary Sagna on the right.

Wenger has an interesting decision to make over his goalkeeper for the opening day with Lukasz Fabianski having returned from a long-term shoulder injury to challenge Wojciech Szczesny for the No1 position. Szczesny looks like he will get the nod initially and stake his claim to be the permanent No1.