Phil Jagielka snub shows Arsenal's fading appeal


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The Independent Football

The Everton defender Phil Jagielka remains Arsène Wenger's first choice when it comes to solving the troublesome absence of a commanding, injury-free centre-back but there are concerns that he will again reject the chance of a move to Arsenal.

Jagielka, 28, and an England international, signed a new four-year contract in March, having been sounded out about a move to Arsenal last summer. On that occasion he was not prepared to push for it. With the club again losing some of their leading lights this summer, the early soundings that Arsenal have had is that Jagielka does not regard a move to Arsenal as a more attractive option than staying at Everton.

Everton value the player at around £15m–£20m – about the same as Bolton's price tag for Gary Cahill, another potential option for Wenger as he looks at possible partners for the newly fit Thomas Vermaelen.

While in the past Wenger's unwillingness to pay big transfer fees has been regarded as a barrier to Arsenal building a successful squad, there is now a feeling in football that they have slipped far enough behind Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City that even for players from the second tier of clubs Arsenal are no longer a major draw.

There was another shaky performance from Sébastien Squillaci in yesterday's friendly game against Hangzhou Greentown in China that emphasised Wenger's need for a competent partner for Vermaelen. He has already made it clear within the club that he will not be seeking a high-profile replacement for Gaël Clichy – sold to City this month – but will make Kieran Gibbs his first-choice left-back.

Having lambasted City manager Roberto Mancini for his very public pursuit of Samir Nasri, the indications are that Wenger will sell only one of his two high-profile likely departing stars – the France international or captain Cesc Fabregas. It has been pointed out to Fabregas that if he wants to push the deal through with Barcelona he might be advised to accept a cut in his wage demands. The player is thought to be asking for around €6m (£5.3m) net a year. Freeing up more money from his contract would permit Barcelona to add more to the fee and raise the amount closer to the £44m that Arsenal have stipulated is a fair price for the player.

Having allowed Nasri and Clichy to come to within one year of the end of their contracts, Arsenal are keen to safeguard the future by signing valuable key players to long-term deals. The next potential problem is Theo Walcott who has just two years left on his current deal, signed in May 2009.