Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger yesterday assured supporters he will fight to keep both Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri at the club.
However, he significantly stopped short of promising the pair would not be leaving the Emirates this summer.
Fabregas is inching closer to a move to Barcelona, with Arsenal valuing their captain at £40m.
Nasri is also agitating for a move away, having failed to agree terms on a new contract, and has been subject to a tentative £20m bid from Manchester United.
Losing both midfielders would be a painful blow for Wenger (below), but he seemed to accept that it may be impossible to keep them.
"Our position is always the same -- we want to keep Cesc and I will fight as hard as I can to keep him," he said. "Samir Nasri is exactly the same. We will do everything we can to keep him."
Wenger's statement is in marked contrast to that of Tottenham Hotspur chairman Daniel Levy, who on Wednesday attempted to fend off Chelsea's interest in midfielder Luka Modric by saying: "Luka Modric will not be sold. That's the end of it."
Arsenal leave for their pre-season tour of Malaysia tomorrow, but Fabregas is unlikely to travel with them, his long-standing hamstring injury giving the club a convenient reason for his absence.
"Fabregas will not travel because he still has a small muscular problem," said Wenger. "He will stay and practice here."
Nasri, however, is due to fly to Asia with the first team, despite making it clear to the club that he wants to move to United.
Arsenal are reluctant to sell the Frenchman to a direct Premier League rival and have set the price at £25m for a player who will be free to leave for nothing in a year's time should he wind down his contract.
Wenger said he is working "long nights" to bring players of "exceptional quality" to Arsenal. "For me, the best thing is not to talk too much about it. The more you speak about things, the less chance you have to achieve them.
"The only thing that I can promise you is that we are working very hard and we have had some long nights to achieve what we want to achieve.
"I can understand (the impatience among the fans). Believe me, I know all the clubs in the world and everybody needs the same players for the same positions. We are at the top level and therefore need exceptional quality to strengthen our side.
"My responsibility is first of all not to lose players and then to add and make us stronger. Let's hope we can bring in one or two more of top quality."
What measures the Frenchman has available to him -- or is prepared to deploy -- though, remains open to question.
It is believed he will offer Nasri an improved £110,000-a-week contract in a bid to convince him to stay at Arsenal, with a greater percentage of his image rights and, if Fabregas leaves, the promise of greater influence and a higher profile.
Wenger's best hope of persuading both players to grant the club at least one more season may, though, come in his own actions in the transfer market.
Nasri has made plain his desire to win trophies and the Arsenal manager must hope that his plans to sign "one or two" more players in addition to Gervinho, the Ivory Coast winger, will be enough to convince the French international to stay. (© Independent News Service)