Wenger: We won't sell our top players
Arsene Wenger has insisted that Arsenal's collapse this season won't lead to a mass exodus of star players such as Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie.
Wenger's side squandered a glorious chance to end their wait for a first trophy since 2005 as they lost the League Cup final against Birmingham, then crashed out of the UEFA Champions League to Barcelona and the FA Cup against Manchester United. Even more painful for Wenger was Arsenal's failure to take their opportunities in the Premier League title race and the Gunners go into Sunday's clash with leaders United knowing a game once billed as a title decider now means little to his team.
Fabregas made it clear that he wanted to join Barcelona last season and the Spanish champions are reportedly likely to come in with a renewed bid for the Arsenal captain. Van Persie and Nasri would also attract attention from Europe's top clubs, but Wenger is adamant that no-one will be sold unless he feels the deal is right for Arsenal.
"We do not want to sell our players," Wenger said on Thursday. "Our players have contracts and they will stay here unless we decide otherwise. We want to keep our best players. We play our game against Man United on Sunday, we are not on the transfer market now.
"This is a subject that is not creative, we have answered it in 80 per cent of press conferences. This is a subject that has to stop because the past has shown the question is useless."
Arsenal's defensive frailties and lack of mental strength during tricky moments has led many fans and pundits to call on Wenger to spend big money on experienced, proven talent before next season. However, the French coach has no intention of ripping up his squad because he is convinced the players are much better than many critics believe.
"I do not want to go on about the transfer market now, and whether we will buy or not buy. We always want to strengthen the team, but if you look at the numbers you will see we created as many chances as anyone," he said. "Yet the team with most shots on the bar is Arsenal and the most penalties against is Arsenal. You have to take a bit of distance and analyse it.
"I believe we have exceptional quality. We have to face a little skeptical attitude from people but we are not as bad as people say. We live in a world where when you don't win you are criticised and you have to accept that. We have produced consistent quality. We just lost after 16 games against Bolton but we have to improve of course."
After winning just one of their last seven league matches, Arsenal are lagging nine points behind United with four games to play. Even a victory over United on Sunday is unlikely to be enough to rekindle their title challenge at this late stage and Wenger concedes Arsenal have blown their best chance to win the league for years.
"Yes it was a great chance, because if you look at all the numbers it is the closest we have been," he said. "We could have had nine points last week but only took two. "We feel more frustrated than ever because we are closer than ever to win this league. This year we had the quality to win it.
"The unfortunate thing is there are plenty of moments to look back with regrets. There is not one moment, we missed many opportunities. I feel we have made up a lot of ground on United and we have the chance to show that on Sunday. This game was targeted as being a decider for the championship, it certainly will not be, but we still have to give everything and play with a fighting spirit."