AS ARSENAL appear to be winning the fight to hold onto captain Cesc Fabregas next season, summer signing Laurent Koscielny cannot wait for the Barclays Premier League battle to begin.
Barcelona look to have, for now at least, admitted defeat in the bid to bring their former trainee back to the Nou Camp.
Andres Iniesta is the latest player to follow president Sandro Rosell and concede the Catalan club are unlikely to be able to secure a deal in time for the start of the new campaign.
“Cesc wants to be with us, but he told me how close the Arsenal fans are to his heart,’’ Iniesta said.
“He is a special player and I hope he wins the title at Arsenal this season. For them to win Cesc will have to stay fit and injury-free but he deserves to finish with a title.’’
Fabregas is away on extended leave after playing for Spain in the World Cup final, and along with Netherlands striker Robin van Persie is not scheduled to rejoin the Arsenal squad until the Emirates Cup next weekend.
However, manager Arsene Wenger is expected to gauge the feeling of his talisman midfielder before then, having been told ahead of the World Cup that Fabregas wanted to move back to Spain.
Arsenal have already rejected one offer of £30 million (€36m) earlier this summer and fully intend to keep hold of Fabregas, who has five years of his current lucrative contract still to run.
Arsenal have enjoyed a decent pre-season build-up, and will play the second match of their Austrian training camp against local side SC Neusiedl 1919 tomorrow.
Koscielny, 24, arrived in what is understood to be a £10m (€12m) switch from French club Lorient, and has already impressed during his two pre-season run-outs, against Barnet and then Sturm Graz.
The 24-year-old centre-half accepts it will be a significant step up to the hustle and bustle of English top-flight football, but is relishing the battles ahead.
“I like physical challenges and I am a player that can anticipate situations,” Koscielny said. “I feel that I read the game well and one of my strengths is challenging for the ball in the air.
“However, being at Arsenal, I know that I will have to work harder on all of those points to reach a higher level.”
Arsenal are expected to bring in at least another defensive player.
Veteran centre-back Sol Campbell could be ready to take up the offer of a one-year extension, while the Gunners are said to be weighing up a £15m (€18m) bid for Everton defender Phil Jagielka, with Udinese centre-half Cristian Zapata another on Wenger’s radar.
The Arsenal manager has also made it clear he has yet to settle on his number one ahead of the new campaign.
Netherlands international Maarten Stekeleburg, of Ajax, has emerged as a potential target, with Australian stopper Mark Schwarzer seeming to have been priced out of any potential deal by Fulham, who want around £4m (€4.8m) for the 37-year-old.
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