According to comments made during a press conference in Kuala Lumpur, Arsenal manager ArseneWenger has confirmed his desire to retain both captain Cesc Fabregas, as well as breakout-star SamirNasri.
In what has been yet another stressful summer for the Arsenal faithful, rumors have been rampant regarding the imminent departure of the talented duo.
The Fabregas saga has continued for a few years, as Barcelona has ramped up their interest in bringing La Masia product Fabregas home to Catalonia. Signed by Arsenal at age 16, the talented 24-year-old Spaniard has long been rumored to desire a return to the club he supported as a child.
His boyhood idol, Barca legend, Pep Guardiola, now manages the club, and Cesc reportedly yearns to follow in his footsteps in the heart of the Barcelona midfield. Though the move has been oft-discussed, it has been complicated by an already crowded midfield, boasting both Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta, two world-class midfielders that are critical to Barca's success.
It has often been postulated that Cesc might have trouble breaking into the Barca starting XI, and it has been wondered whether it would be worth it for him to vacate the captaincy at Arsenal in order to move into such an uncertain situation.
Over the last few seasons, Barca has repeatedly stated their desire to bring Fabregas back to his homeland, and their players have continually spoken of his seemingly inevitable return to Camp Nou.
However, Arsene Wenger hasn't shared their vision, as he has built a talented squad around the Spanish maestro, a team for which he serves as the creative engine.
Despite reports in the media of Cesc's burning desire to leave Arsenal in favor of Barca, the player has often played coy, and has yet to turn in a formal transfer request to force the move.
Possessing a deep respect for Wenger, a man he has called a father figure to him, Cesc likely prefers the move, but is reluctant to burn bridges with the Arsenal manager who helped forge him into a world-class player.
Similarly, French midfielder/winger, Samir Nasri, a player that developed into a dynamic force for the Gunners last season, has been the subject of continual rumors regarding his immediate future.
With only one year left on his deal with Arsenal, the 24-year-old could potentially leave the Gunners on a free transfer if his contract runs out following the 2011/12 season.
Desperate to avoid that scenario, Wenger is in the process of trying to secure a contract extension for the dynamic footballer. Reports in the media have stated various reports, intimating that Nasri is demanding wages on par with Fabregas, and that he is eager to move on in order to win the trophies that Arsenal has failed to secure.
Reaction from fans has been divided, as many have chastised the player for being greedy, while others have desperately urged Wenger to resign the player that was such an integral part of Arsenal's success last season.
Nasri, via his own Twitter, urged fans to "be patient" and to"not believe everything they read."
He is currently involved in negotiations with Wenger to sort out his future, and while those are ongoing, he has traveled with the squad to Malaysia for their pre-season tour, a move which has been seen by many as an encouraging sign.
The media has run wild with rumors about his imminent signing with Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea or Juventus, with the first three being highly unlikely due to their close proximity to Arsenal in the EPL table. It would be a disastrous move for on-field results and public relations with fans for Wenger to sell the talented player to direct English rivals.
As of yet, nothing has materialized aside from unfounded speculation, so fans would be wise to ignore the rumor mill for now to avoid frustration.
Now, back to Wenger's press conference.
While speaking with reporters upon arrival in Malaysia, the Arsenal manager addressed the rumors and tried assuage the fears of the Gunner faithful.
As quoted on Arsenal.com: "Yes [I expect Cesc to stay]. As simple as that," said Wenger at the media session in Kuala Lumpur. "I have never spoken about what has happened behind closed doors but Cesc loves the Club. We know the Barcelona story goes on for years now and we have to close that. Now we focus on the new season, hopefully with Cesc Fabregas."Yes [I expect Nasri to stay as well]. There is always speculation when a player has one year to go on his contract that he might leave the club but Samir Nasri is very happy at the Club and committed to stay at the Club."I hope he will sign a new contract but I am not the only one to decide that."
Certainly encouraging words from the architect of Arsenal's talented, if as-of-yet underachieving squad.
The prospect of potentially losing two of the three most-creative players in the squad has been a nightmare that Arsenal fans would rather forget.
Many fans believe that Arsenal could cope with the departure of one of the two, but the loss of both could be a potentially devastating blow.
There is a common belief that if Fabregas were to seal his seemingly inevitable return to Barca, thatNasri could be tempted to sign long-term by being awarded Fabregas' central-midfield role.
Based upon Wenger's words however, and the dawning of the new season drawing ever-closer, it seems as though both might stay in London...for now.
With the emergence of Jack Wilshere, the long-awaited return of Welsh midfielder Aaron Ramsey, the just-announced signing of Ivorian Gervinho, as well incumbent Gunners, Robin van Persie, TheoWalcott and Andre Arshavin, Arsenal are loaded with exciting attacking players.
If the two allegedly "want-away" players could be persuaded to stay at Arsenal, the Gunners should boast a thrilling offense that combined with a potentially upgraded defense, could be a significant force in the Premiere League.
Of course, we've been waiting for that time to materialize for a few seasons now, but there is undoubtedly talent within the squad, only requiring some minor reinforcement to realistically challenge their elite competition.
It has been said that Nasri could be enticed to stay if Wenger displayed some ambition within the transfer window and reinforced the squad ahead of the coming season. You can't fault a footballer for wanting to win, after all, that's why you play the games. If his reluctance to sign is based solely upon a desire to see Wenger strengthen the team's chances to win, then that is a sentiment he shares with many Gunner supporters.
Hopefully, the new deal with Gervinho, as well as a potential deal to shore up the defense can serve as evidence that the Professor has heeded the calls of the frustrated fan-base, and has finally noticed the shortcomings of his team as presently constructed.
At this late date, it becomes difficult to envision replacing two players so critical to Arsenal's fortunes. To see either of them leave now would be discouraging to say the least, unless Wenger has a miracle transfer up his sleeve to compensate for such a significant departure.
At this point though, all we can do is hope that Wenger is right, and that he is able to persuade both Fabregas and Nasri to stay. The only way for his vision of building a club through modest means to succeed, is to hold onto the most talented players he has developed, in order to build the squad around them.
For now, Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas are Gunners, and the team's fortunes will revolve heavily around their plentiful talents.
Despite the rumors circulating around his two stars, if he can persuade the two to stay, he very well may justify the oft-repeated cries of "In Wenger we trust."