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Wenger could face Emirates exodus

Arsene Wenger may be keeping his cards close to his chest in the summer transfer games, but Arsenal appear on the verge of finally losing captain Cesc Fabregas to Barcelona - and he could be quickly followed out of Emirates Stadium by contract rebels Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy.

Unlike they did 12 months ago, the Gunners have not as yet issued any public statement despite Barcelona once again stepping up their pursuit of Spain international Fabregas. The European champions are expected to improve their £27million offer, and while that is still likely to be undervaluing the Gunners captain, a deal is anticipated to be agreed.

Arsenal will not be held to ransom by Nasri and Clichy, who are both out of contract at the end of next season, over demands for inflated wages, with free-spending Manchester City now unsurprisingly a likely destination for both.

Wenger is due to gather his first-team squad together next week ahead of a tour to Malaysia and China. The Arsenal manager continues to give little away as to which players will be part of the group when they jet off in 10 days time.

"We are in a waiting period, everybody is waiting for the other (clubs') moves," Wenger said in an interview with Alsace TV. "Everybody has their cards in [their] hands, hoping for the big transfer. There is nothing moving yet. The period will me more active at the end of July when we will need to really strengthen the team."

By then, though, Arsenal fans will be demanding more additions following the expected departures. Defence is an area Wenger has singled out as in need of improvement, with Bolton centre-back Gary Cahill emerging as the preferred candidate, although whether the Gunners will match his £17million price tag remains to be seen.

Wenger continues to argue his squad simply lacked the stamina, rather than quality to get over the line as they battled for so long on all fronts last season.

The Arsenal manager, though, knows after another season which promised so much but failed to deliver following a cataclysmic collapse after defeat in the Carling Cup final, the focus will be on just how Arsenal can respond, with title rivals already active in the transfer market.

"There is always pressure, England is the hardest championship in the world, some teams have more money than us. We have to accept it and do the maximum," he said. "We decided to respect some rules in our club, especially on the financial side in an environment that does not respect that.

"We respect [the] quality of the game and human quality too. It means it is harder for us when you respect these three topics. We live exactly in the way everybody should, with a balance between revenues and expenses. We have been very constant for many years now. We should be seen as an example and it is often not the case."

© Press Association