Arsene Wenger does not expect wantaway captain Cesc Fabregas to be fit to lead Arsenal in their opening game of the new Barclays Premier League season.
The Spain midfielder was again conspicuous by his absence from the squad for Saturday night's final pre-season friendly against Benfica. Wenger had last week purposely omitted Fabregas from the Emirates Cup, admitting the player, who has been hampered by a hamstring problem, had become unsettled by continued speculation over a move back to Barcelona.
"He is just coming back from injury and is not ready to play in a game, but he is not injured," Wenger said.
"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."
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.
Wenger added: "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."
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.
"I can understand the impatience of people," he said.
"We want to add not quality, but super quality.
"We hope to give you some good news soon. Next week, something might happen."