Zenit St Petersburg remain determined to stand firm on their asking price as Arsenal continue their pursuit of Andrei Arshavin. Arsène Wenger was hoping to complete a deal for the Russian playmaker ahead of the FA Cup fourth-round trip to Cardiff.
However, any plans to blood the new signing at Ninian Park on Sunday look to have been scuppered as Zenit will not budge from their demand for £20m for the player. While it is clear the Russians are resigned to losing the player, it will only be if the price is right.
With Arsenal, whose record transfer fee paid is £13m, having so far refused to match that figure – with them looking to lay out around £12m plus add-ons – the clubs appear to be at an impasse, although Zenit have indicated an improved cash bid up to £15m would secure the player's services.
It has even been suggested Arshavin, 27, could be willing to invoke new Fifa legislation and eventually buy himself out of the remainder of his contract later in the year should an agreement for his transfer not be reached this month. Arsenal have so far not made any official comment, other than Wenger revealing negotiations were ongoing.
The Premier League club are, though, understood to have set a deadline of Monday one way or another for what has turned out to be the most protracted saga of the January transfer window.
While Wenger has indicated he does have other targets, one of which is reported to be West Ham's former Gunners defender Matthew Upson as well as Le Mans' Ivory Coast striker Gervinho, it now seems almost certain there will be no fresh faces brought in before the squad depart for Wales.
Given their position in the Premier League – still outside the top four and six points behind new leaders Manchester United, who have a game in hand – the FA Cup may well now present Arsenal's most likely source of silverware this season. The Gunners, whose last trophy came when they beat United on penalties to win the famous old knockout competition in 2005, are likely to name a strong side for the game with Cardiff, finalists at Wembley last season.
While striker Robin van Persie has already warned his team-mates to expect a hot reception at Ninian Park, one player who should feel right at home will be young midfielder Aaron Ramsey. The Wales international, who turned 18 on Boxing Day, came up through the Cardiff youth ranks before joining the Gunners in a £5m deal during the summer.
Wenger feels Ramsey – who netted his first Arsenal goal in the 5-2 Champions League victory at Fenerbahce – has come a long way in a short time. "He has not only made the step up from the Championship to the Premier League, but also to a Premier League team that wants to be at the top and who fights in the Champions League, and that means it is a massive difference at such a young age," Wenger told the official Arsenal magazine. "I believe he did extremely well because he has drive and he can push the team forward. He is always available, he wants the ball and he is very dynamic in his play.
"Overall I am very pleased with his progress because I must say that he is ahead of where I planned for him to be in January. You have to remember though that he is still only just 18 years of age and you need to be a little bit patient with him. He has shown that every time we have picked him, he has responded in a very positive way."
Full-back Gaël Clichy will be suspended for Sunday's televised encounter after picking up a fifth caution in last week's 3-1 Premier League win at Hull.
Striker Eduardo, meanwhile, is set to continue his rehabilitation from a broken leg with another run-out for the reserves at Stoke tonight. However, the FA Cup tie is expected to be too soon for the Croatian's first-team return.