Arsène Wenger confirmed last night that Arsenal had won their latest battle with Barcelona for the services of Cesc Fabregas, and said the Spanish midfielder would be at The Emirates next season.
Wenger expressed his anger at the Catalans' dogged pursuit of the player and said it was important he stood up to them. "There was too much talk and it was very unhelpful to us," said Wenger after yesterday's 4-0 win in their opening pre-season friendly against Barnet here.
"I always said we wanted him to stay, he's such an important player, he's our captain and we want to keep him," said Wenger. "It is important to stand up and to give the impression that just because someone wants someone, we won't give in."
Barcelona's new president, Sandro Rosell, said on Friday his club would not be increasing their £25 million offer for the midfielder. The Spanish champions are apparently entering a period of austerity and Rosell has criticised the former president, Joan Laporta, for upsetting Arsenal in the past.
Wenger added: "We were not listening to any offers anyway. It was not a problem of money but a desire to keep our players at the club. We can only influence our own behaviour. I believe that things are straight again with Rosell and we had a consistent attitude. We were always reluctant to talk about Cesc's departure and in the end I believe that's how it finished."
Asked if he had spoken to Fabregas, he said: "Yes, but I won't say publicly what we talked about but I think the story has to stop. I believe he loves the club, that he has shown attachment to the club many times."
Hostility towards the Spanish champions is hardly widespread when they so recently provided seven of the starting XI for Spain's World Cup final win, but there was a hint of it in the Arsenal support here, where one banner read: "Fuck you Barça".
In the absence of Fabregas and the nine other Arsenal players who were on international duty in South Africa, Wenger gave a first start to the new central defender Laurent Koscielny, the 24-year-old who arrived from the French club Lorient this summer.
He looked a touch lightweight alongside Thomas Vermaelen, although the pair were largely untroubled in a first half that saw Arsenal coast into a 3-0 lead, with Andrey Arshavin opening the scoring and the young striker Jay Simpson adding two more.
One of 11 half-time changes made by Wenger was the introduction of the 26-year-old Moroccan striker Marouane Chamakh, signed on a free transfer from Bordeaux this summer after long being linked with The Emirates. "Koscielny adjusted slowly to the requested challenges in the air and Chamakh you could see was good at bringing players into the game, which could be very helpful, because we have creative midfield players so it will suit our style of play," said Wenger.
Theo Walcott also emerged fresh from his unscheduled summer break. He returns to Austria tomorrow for Arsenal's training camp and will hope for a better time of it than he had there under Fabio Capello before missing out on England's World Cup squad.
Walcott and the quicksilver Chamakh both went close before Samir Nasri added a fourth.