Cesc Fabregas transfer saga set to go on

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.

Whatever transpires with the latest chapter of the on-going transfer saga, losing his captain the same week as long-serving full-back Gael Clichy joined title rivals Manchester City would be a severe blow to morale, which is already in need of a lift after another season which imploded over the final weeks.

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.

Wenger is reported to hold many transfer targets this summer, but the sweeping changes predicted have so far failed to materialise - with those deemed now surplus to requirements, like Denmark striker Nicklas Bendtner, reporting back to Arsenal's Hertfordshire base.

Much of course could still happen in both directions before the transfer window closes at 11pm on August 31, with the Arsenal manager likening the whole process to a game of poker.

England centre-back Gary Cahill is a long-term target for the Gunners, but yesterday Bolton rejected suggestions a £17m deal was on the table, while Southampton also insist no formal agreement has been done for highly-rated youngster Alex Chamberlain and Argentina starlet Ricardo Alvarez appears set for Inter Milan rather than Emirates Stadium.

Clichy's departure has seen Newcastle left-back Jose Enrique emerge as a viable replacement, but with England international Kieran Gibbs already in the first-team picture, Wenger may well decide to put the reported £7m fee to better use on Lyon defender Aly Cissokho or indeed not spend it at all.

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."

The statement concluded: "We are back in pre-season training and no established quality has been brought in to bolster the squad, and there's still complete silence from the club's new majority shareholder [Stan Kroenke] with no comment regarding his intentions for the club.

"All these factors are making fans feel very concerned for our prospects in the coming season."

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