Wenger ready to defy City by playing Nasri
Arsene Wenger is ready to defy Roberto Mancini by naming Samir Nasri in Arsenal's squad for tomorrow's Champions League play-off against Udinese, with Manchester City no closer to finalising a £23m deal for the French midfielder.
Although a fee has been agreed between the two clubs for the 24-year-old, with personal terms of £170,000-a-week also finalised, City have yet to come to a financial agreement with the player's representatives over their involvement in the transfer.
City manager Mancini's frustration over the delay in completing the deal came to a head on Sunday when he warned Wenger that he risked creating a "big problem" that could force the transfer to fall through should Nasri become cup-tied by lining up against Udinese in tomorrow's second-leg in Italy.
But with Arsenal facing the possibility of missing out on the lucrative group stages should their 1-0 first-leg lead be overturned -- the club banked £29.9m in prize money by reaching the last 16 of last season's competition -- Wenger is understood to have told club officials that it will be business as usual with Nasri, and that he is prepared to select him against the Italians in order to boost his team's prospects of reaching the group stage.
Nasri trained with his Arsenal team-mates yesterday and is due to train at the club's London Colney base today before the squad fly to Italy from Luton Airport this afternoon.
Nasri is understood to have told close friends that he prefers a move to Manchester United or Spain ahead of a transfer to City and sources in France have indicated that he may now be ready to consider a one-year contract extension at Arsenal in order to leave the club for a more preferable destination next summer.
Should Nasri extend his contract at the Emirates until Jun 2013, it would enable Arsenal to secure a fee for the player next summer rather than lose him for nothing or rush through a transfer now at a time when the club's midfield has already been deprived of the services of Cesc Fabregas following his departure to Barcelona.
Whether United, who lodged a £20m bid for Nasri in June, would be prepared to wait until next summer for the player remains to be seen and City remain favourites to complete a deal for Nasri before the August 31 deadline.
Wenger's attempts to recruit desperately needed reinforcements to bolster his faltering side may rest on Arsenal's abilities to reach the Champions League.
The Frenchman is hopeful of bringing in Sochaux's Marvin Martin, but two more of his targeted signings -- Yann M'Vila and Eden Hazard -- will wait until after tomorrow night's second-leg against Udinese before deciding on a move.
Wenger's troubles increased yesterday when UEFA extended his European touchline ban by a further two matches for passing messages to his coaching staff during last week's first-leg against Udinese.
Arsenal were also fined €10,000 for improper conduct of their officials during the game. The club are to appeal against the decision.
On the brighter side, Wenger will have Robin van Persie back from suspension tomorrow, following his ban for being sent off against Barcelona. Alex Song and Gervinho, who are serving domestic suspensions, can also play, while Jack Wilshere is expected to have recovered from his ankle injury.
Meanwhile, City have agreed a £2.5m deal with Bolton for Shaun Wright-Phillips, but the England winger is ready to keep his options open before finalising a move.
(© Daily Telegraph, London)