Arsene Wenger delivered more bad news to Arsenal fans yesterday when he announced that the club's interest in the Valencia midfielder Juan Mata was officially over, as the club braced themselves to complete the sales of both Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri with the manager refusing to discuss either player.
Wenger would not offer any insight on the departure of his captain to Barcelona or the impending deal with Manchester City for Nasri, even claiming at one point that he did not "expect" any player to leave. All he could say for definite was that Mata, the £20m-rated Spain international, will not be joining Arsenal. He said: "We will not do Juan Mata. I don't have to give you a reason, I just said to you we will not do it."
There is an expectation that Arsenal could complete deals for Fabregas and Nasri, worth a total of around £60m, at any point this weekend. Neither player is in the squad for today's game against Newcastle United. Wenger claimed that Nasri has the flu while Fabregas is in the puzzlingly ambiguous situation of being "not injured, but he is not match-fit," according to his manager.
Last night Arsenal refused to confirm reports that Fabregas was on his way to Spain to sign for Barcelona.
The closest Wenger came to admitting that his team is facing up to the prospect of the new season without two of their key performers was when he contended that the team was not reliant on one individual. "You always hear that but football is not about one magical man who can make miracles when things go badly," he said.
Earlier he said: "We are all replaceable. All the centuries are full of replaceable people. Sometimes when you lose a big player the game changes. A big player attracts the game to him. Sometimes [when he leaves] other people stand up and take more responsibilities and the game is a bit different, but not less efficient. But you do not want to lose big players, if that is the question."
The one player whom Wenger conceded will be leaving the club is Nicklas Bendtner, who is not included in today's squad. Bendtner's departure has been messy which was reflected in Wenger's ambivalence towards him when asked where the Dane was going. "He looks like he knows but I don't know," he said. On Jadson, the £12m-rated Brazilian midfielder at Shakhtar Donetsk he said, "We are nowhere near doing that."
Nevertheless there was a promise to buy a centre-back by the end of the month. He said: "We will have a new centre-back by the end of the transfer window because [Thomas] Vermaelen only played five games last year. To buy just for the sake of buying you won't find me there. If I'm convinced the player has the qualities I will always do it if he's better than the players we have.
"If I'm convinced that the player brings some extra qualities to the squad, we will always [buy] him. If we overpaid a little bit... but to pay three or four times the price you must really be convinced that this is the player you need. At the moment we have not found that player."
While refusing to talk in specifics about Fabregas's departure, Wenger defended the time it has taken to sell the captain to Barça. "It does not depend only on me. You have three parties in the deal and the pace is not necessarily set by you, it is set by people who want to buy, by how much you resist to how much you defend your property. That is logical [to negotiate hard]. If I didn't do that I would be unprofessional."