Sport Soccer

Thursday 26 April 2018

Wenger plays risky Nasri waiting game

Ian Herbert

CHELSEA are monitoring the situation concerning Arsenal's disenchanted midfielder Samir Nasri and may compete with Manchester United for his signature should their move for Tottenham Hotspur's Luka Modric fall flat.

Nasri (24) has been discussed at the highest level at Chelsea and, although he is not top of their list of potential targets, that could change should other possible new arrivals become unavailable.

Chelsea have already seen a £22m bid for Modric rejected out of hand by Tottenham, though they are highly likely to bid again. Tottenham have categorically ruled out selling the Croatian playmaker, who two weeks ago publicly stated his desire to leave White Hart Lane and move across London to Chelsea.

The queue of clubs ready to capitalise on the uncertainty surrounding Nasri -- Manchester City are also keeping an open mind on the situation -- has not cowed Wenger into rapid close-season business, with only one imminent new arrival and the Arsenal manager insisting that clubs involved in the summer transfer market "don't blink until late July."

Nasri's reluctance to sign a new £90,000-a-week deal is in part driven by doubts over Arsenal's potential to build and Arsene Wenger would appear to be losing his race against time to secure the transfer reinforcements which could prove key to convincing the Frenchman to shun his suitors.

Despite reports to the contrary, there have been no discussions with the clubs of Christopher Samba, Phil Jagielka, Leighton Baines, Juan Mata or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, with a view to strengthening the squad.

Nasri is due to discuss his future with Wenger after the Arsenal players return to training this week ahead of their pre-season tour of the Far East. Talks over a new, five-year deal worth £90,000 a week halted abruptly last month.

As well as negotiations over his salary -- Nasri is believed to want as much as £110,000 a week -- the former Marseille player wants reassurances that Wenger intends to strengthen Arsenal's squad in an attempt to end the club's six-year wait for a trophy.

Yet his manager's progress in the transfer market thus far has been laborious. Reports from Spain that Cesc Fabregas' £38m move to Barcelona may be finalised as soon as Monday will hardly be music to Nasri's ears and Wenger's admission that it may be more than three weeks before he can begin to bolster his playing resources will worry him further.

Wenger has insisted in a French radio interview that he will not be rushed.

"Currently, everyone is standing still," he said. "Everyone expects everyone else to make the first move. Everyone holds on to their cards, hoping for the major transfer (to kick-start the transfer window).

"I am very active on the phone, but nobody blinks until late July, early August. Then we will analyse the gaps in each team."

That, though, may be too late for Wenger to keep hold of Nasri, with United in particular determined to wrest the 24-year-old from north London before both clubs leave on tour in 10 days' time. United manager Alex Ferguson could lodge his opening offer, of around £15m this week.

City, for their part, will step up their interest in Nasri if they have definitively lost out in their attempts to sign Alexis Sanchez from Udinese.

Any Arsenal move for Bolton Wanderers' Gary Cahill is understood to be contingent on Owen Coyle securing a player in return, with a fear that the Lancashire club's financial position would prevent him retaining the entire transfer fee of around £17m.

But Coyle does not want Nicklas Bendtner. A young reserve-team player with potential -- Henri Lansbury or the Spanish defender Ignasi Miquel -- would be far more appealing.

Wenger may face a contest with Chelsea over both Cahill and Birmingham's Scott Dann, with new Stamford Bridge manager Andre Villas-Boas understood to be interested in a second English centre-half.

Arsenal's fans may have some reason to be cheerful next week, with the possible conclusion of a £10.5m deal for Lille striker Gervinho. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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