| 5.1°C Dublin

Wenger confident of keeping Fabregas

Arsene Wenger sees no reason why captain Cesc Fabregas should not be at Arsenal for "many years".

While Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson appears set to lose the services of disillusioned star striker Wayne Rooney sooner rather than later, Gunners boss Wenger intends to continue to fight tooth and nail to keep his talisman well past this season.

Fabregas, 23, was close to returning to his boyhood club Barcelona during the summer, only for Arsenal to stand firm as they rejected a €40m offer for the midfielder whom they have nurtured since he was 16.

The issue of just whether Fabregas would remain part of the team was one of the questions raised by shareholders to the manager during Arsenal's annual general meeting at the Emirates Stadium today.

Wenger, though, insists there is no reason to believe the World Cup winner, under contract until 2015, would not continue to be the mainstay of his side for the foreseeable future.

"I convinced him to stay at this club," the Arsenal boss said.

"It is a natural case of a player who loves this club - and he loves Arsenal deeply, believe me. If he did not love it, he would have gone.

"You also have to remember that Barcelona has an attraction, because he grew up there, but I believe he wants to win with this club.

"For how long? You never know, but hopefully for many years.

"It is about our potential to win also, how well he can do.

"I am not pessimistic about him, and I am confident we will keep him for a few more years."

Wenger sidestepped the "sensitive" subject of Rooney's possible destination when asked if he would think about a January swoop.

However, the Arsenal manager observed: "It shows you how fragile the position of any club is at the moment, considering the length of contracts of players.

"When the players reach two years before the end of the contract , if you want to keep the value of it, you have to extend it or he will go for nothing in the end. The system is inflationary."

Arsenal demolished Shakhtar Donetsk 5-1 at Emirates Stadium on Tuesday night to all but secure their place in the last 16 of the Champions League.

However, the Gunners head to Barclays Premier League rivals Manchester City some five point behind leaders Chelsea, by whom they were beaten 2-0 before the international break.

Wenger, though, insists his young side are on the cusp of greatness as they look to land a first trophy since the 2005 FA Cup.

"I see a real opportunity to have great achievements this season - we have the spirit, talent, hunger and desire," he said.

"I do not say there are no weaknesses, we are conscious of that, but we work very hard."

Wenger added: "We are fans, we love the club, we want to get higher than last year.

"The only way we can do this is to trust the players and get behind them.

"They have great potential, but we live in a very fragile business, where it is very difficult to be consistent.

"What we want now is to get that little bit extra which makes us winners - and we are ready for it.

"We will go for every single competition this season with every resource we have and we will give absolutely everything."

Arsenal will head to Eastlands again without centre-back Thomas Vermaelen, who suffered an Achilles injury during the September international break.

Wenger admitted: "I could not say when he will play again."

Members of the Arsenal Supporters Trust 'fanshare' initiative were also present at this morning's gathering, along with American majority stakeholder Stan Kroenke.

Chairman Peter Hill-Wood addressed the issue of Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith's remaining stock, a private-equity firm having been appointed to sell her 15.9pc holding after she left the board during December 2008, as well as whether Wenger would accept a directorship once he retirement from management.

The Gunners boss, who turns 62 tomorrow, vowed to continue in charge of the "club of my heart and my life" as long as he was physically able.

Chief executive Ivan Gazidis, meanwhile, maintained Arsenal's self-sustaining business model is on track, after last month announcing record pre-tax profits of £56m (€63m) and increased group turnover of £379.9m, while also seeing all the debt on their Highbury Square development paid off.

PA Media