Wenger baulks at Davies' inflated fee

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The Independent Online

The Arsenal manager, Arsène Wenger, said yesterday that he intends to sign another central defender - but again insisted that he is reluctant to pay the £10m asking price for West Bromwich Albion's Curtis Davies.

The Championship club are sticking to their valuation for the England under-21 international and Wenger said: "I know the prices in England. The prices [you pay] for young talent are the prices you'd pay for established players. We do it sometimes. We did it for Theo Walcott for example but we cannot do it always."

West Brom have already rejected bids of £5.5m from Tottenham Hotspur and, more recently, £8.5m from Portsmouth for Davies, who cost them £3m last year from Luton Town. However Wenger hopes that, by biding his time, he will be able to negotiate a deal closer to the end of the transfer window.

Despite the departure of Sol Campbell - who wants to end his career abroad and is this week expected to hold talks with Marseilles - and injury to Philippe Senderos, who will miss the first month of the season, the Arsenal manager said he would not be rushed.

"We have Touré, Djourou, Senderos and Cygan," Wenger said. "If we can find someone and we can get them then we will do it. But at the moment I have not found anybody. But remember these defenders went 10 games in the Champions' League without conceding a goal so I cannot say they're bad. I'm a strong believer in them. We just want to improve our collective team play on last year."

Wenger also has faith in the ability of Gaël Clichy, although he will miss the start of the season, to develop into a replacement for Ashley Cole, who is expected to join Chelsea for up to £20m. But Wenger will buy a defender who is comfortable at left-back as well as in central defence.

Arsenal are still considering whether to pursue West Ham United's Yossi Benayoun with a formal bid. The Israeli midfielder would not be sold for less than £10m but Wenger is a known admirer despite having purchased a similar player, Tomas Rosicky, for £7m. Benayoun has also attracted the attention of two other Premiership clubs although one of those, Liverpool, have now signed Jermaine Pennant. Arsenal are also still being linked with a move for Lens' Alou Diarra, the former Liverpool midfielder.

Arsenal, who are at their pre-season training camp in Austria, suffered a blow yesterday with the confirmation that Fredrik Ljungberg is likely to miss the opening Premiership game of the season as well as the two-legged Champions' League qualifier.

The Swede struggled at the end of last season with a foot problem and although he managed to play in the World Cup is battling with an ankle inflammation.

* Manchester City last night confirmed they have accepted an £800,000 offer from Norwich for England youth player Lee Croft.

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