Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 25 December 2014

Fabregas saga to keep running

Francesc Fabregas
Francesc Fabregas

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, 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.

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.

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."

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