With Barcelona's advances subdued for now, Arsene Wenger has challenged wantaway captain Cesc Fabregas to help drive Arsenal towards Premier League title next season.
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Fabregas, 23, is not scheduled to return to England until after this weekend's Emirates Cup for Arsenal's official photocall on August 5 as, along with Holland striker Robin van Persie, he was given extra time off following the World Cup final.
Barcelona, publicly at least, appear to have admitted defeat in their quest to land their former trainee Fabregas, who had reportedly told Wenger before he departed for the World Cup he wanted to join Barcelona, before the transfer window closes at the end of August. Wenger remains confident his talisman will be fully focussed on playing his part for Arsenal next season, when the Gunners aim to land a first title since the invincible campaign of 2003/2004.
"I always said Cesc Fabregas will be our captain next year and that we want to keep him. Despite all the speculation last season and the whole summer, nothing has changed,'' declared the Gunners boss, whose side will host AC Milan and Scottish giants Celtic over the weekend.
"Cesc has always said he is committed to the club and he has always shown it. The best way to show you are committed is that you give your best when you walk on the football pitch and he has always done that. Look at the length of his contract and you will see he has five or six years to go. When you sign a contract it means we are committed to a player to pay him and keep him no matter what happens.
"It is important we focus on the targets we have together. There is a great attitude and spirit inside the squad and Cesc Fabregas can help us achieve these targets. He is now at an age, 23 years old, and he has just won the World Cup. I believe he will grow in authority again for next season. The biggest achievement for him now is to help us win the championship.''
Barcelona defender Carles Puyol, an international team-mate of Fabregas, maintains Arsenal are trying to keep hold of the player against his will. Wenger, however, insists there will be no more dialogue: "We do not negotiate. If I want to buy your house and you do not want to sell, you do not negotiate with me, that is completely normal.''
Wenger, though, fully expects his captain to knuckle down and get back to what he is paid for, regardless of what may be going on off the field.
"There are all kinds of situations, but I believe what happens after is that when a player stays it is about how much he focused on playing football,'' Wenger said. "It is always in the interests of the player to perform. If he is a champion, he goes on the football pitch and wants to be the best he can. All the rest is a poor excuse for a football player.''
Although Arsenal fans will not get to see the likes of Fabregas and van Persie this weekend, while Abou Diaby, Denilson, Alex Song and Nicklas Bendtner - set to miss the start of the season - are also unavailable, Wenger believes the two games will give the rest of his squad a good workout.
"You will see some young players, like [Emmanuel] Frimpong and [Jack] Wilshere, also the new players like [Marouane] Chamakh and [Laurent] Koscielny. It will be good to see them in a competitive environment,'' said Wenger, whose squad have just returned from a 10-day Austrian training camp. "I will also learn what condition we are in physically, because we have worked quite hard and with two weeks to go it is important that we can last in the games. The third point is how ready our we with our team play? How sharp is our passing and our quick movement off the ball?''