Arsenal head off on their mini tour of Asia today with two pre-season friendlies to play in Malaysia and China, but their star player and captain Cesc Fabregas is not making the trip. Officially the club have said he is continuing his recovery from the hamstring injury he sustained at the end of last season, but it has led to even more speculation about his future. Barcelona have made no secret of their desire to sign Cesc, but Arsene Wenger has said he will fight to keep both Cesc and Samir Nasri at the club.
A statement from Wenger that both players will be staying at the club would have been much better for Arsenal fans, but from what he did say it looks like their departures are very real possibilities. If Arsenal were not considering selling Cesc I would have expected Wenger to say so, but his admission of a fight to keep him shows that Barcelona can get their man if they really want to. The big question now is whether Barcelona really are serious about buying Cesc, and if so will they make a realistic offer for him.
There is a school of thought that Wenger has told Cesc he can join Barcelona if they meet Arsenal's valuation, but that has not happened so far. I think that's the most likely scenario at the moment, and I also doubt whether Barcelona will meet Arsenal's valuation. They have stated that they are prepared to wait until the very end of the transfer window to get Cesc if they have to, but Arsenal cannot allow that to happen.
Arsenal play their first pre-season friendly on Wednesday afternoon and after that the countdown to the new season will begin with only 31 days to go to their first competitive game. The team come back to London at the end of July to play in the Emirates Cup and I think Arsenal have to tell Barcelona Cesc will not be for sale at any price if they have not made a realistic bid by then. I wish they would tell them he isn't for sale at all, but if Cesc has been told he can go for the right price there has to be a time limit on it.
The speculation about his future is not doing Arsenal or their fans any good, and it can't be helping their efforts to sign new players either. If Cesc is going to leave this summer then Arsenal need to sign a top class replacement, but the longer the whole saga drags on then the harder it will be for them to do just that. It also can't help Arsenal to lure new players to the club if the future of their best player is uncertain, and that's the best thing that can be said of Cesc's future at the moment.
Personally I really hope that Cesc stays at Arsenal, but I cannot say I'm confident of him staying any more. I don't think he will play any worse than he is capable of playing if he is still an Arsenal player next season, but there are many Arsenal fans who feel he should be sold. They have every right to believe no player is bigger than the club, and Cesc should be sold if he will not make a statement committing himself to Arsenal.
The Cesc saga is a lot more complicated than that though because of his links to Barcelona, and if it was simply a case of wanting to leave Arsenal things would be much clearer. If that were the case Arsenal could sell him to any club and not just Barcelona, and they might actually get the price they want.
When it comes to Nasri things are pretty simple though, as he has one year left on his contract and if he refuses to sign another one he must be sold. He has made the trip to Asia which is a little odd if he really wants to leave, but he cannot be allowed to hold the club to ransom. At least Arsenal can offer him to more than one club, and an auction for him might raise a decent price despite having only that one year left.
The squad for the trip to Asia is available on the club site and there are a few notable omissions from it. Both Nicklas Bendtner and Manuel Almunia have been omitted and the chances are they will be sold in this transfer window, but Denilson has made the trip despite wanting to leave the club. It would appear Emmanuel Eboue, Lukasz Fabianski and Abu Diaby are all injured, and have stayed behind as a result.
I'm sure Arsenal fans in Malaysia and China will be bitterly disappointed that they won't get to see Cesc play for their team, but if he is injured he cannot be risked. The doom and gloom merchants will claim he's not injured and he is refusing to play for the club, but I really hope they're wrong. Only time will tell the truth of the matter, and that time is now running out for both the club and the player.
If the worst does happen I will obviously have to change the name of my blog, and I would appreciate any suggestions. I have a few ideas of my own, but I'm also open to any new ideas.
That's it for today.
Here's a look at Cesc at his best.
See You Tomorrow.