By Richard Clarke

Arsène Wenger has explained his decision to omit Ashley Cole from the Arsenal squad to face Aston Villa on Saturday.

The left back is wanted by Chelsea and will be allowed to leave Emirates Stadium if a transfer can be agreed. However a deal has not been thrashed out yet so, in the current circumstances, Wenger believes Cole should sit out the season's curtain-raiser.

"I've given him permission to move and at the moment we have not reached the deadline," said Wenger at Friday's pre-match press conference. "I could put him in the squad and then he could be sold tonight so I do not want to be confronted with that situation. As long as you don't reach the deadline he has to be focused completely with us - to stay and readjust to the ambition of the Club.

An agreement appears some way away but, should the transfer window close, Cole would be allowed to continue his Arsenal career without recrimination. 

"At the moment it doesn't look like [the deal will be completed]," said Wenger. "I don't think that it is any financial problem, I don't know what's stopping it - certainly not our demands.

"But if he's not transferred he will fight for his place like everybody else. If I have a player here and I think he's good enough to play he plays. What is important to me is the interests of the Club, all the egos [that are] hurt or not hurt is not important. What is important is who can help this Club to be successful and if I feel he can help the Club to be successful I will play him."

Wenger was asked where he thought Cole would be on September 1, the day after the transfer deadline.

"I think it will be here," said the Arsenal manager. "It has not happened [yet and] the transfer period started in June. We are not at the end of August and still nothing has happened so why should it happen now?"

Wenger baulked at suggestions this was a major hindrance to his preparations for the coming campaign.

"It's not disturbing at all, personally," he said. "It keeps the press busy all the time but, apart from that, on a daily basis I've never had any problems. It looks like the only situation of any interest is with Ashley Cole but we work every day with 20 players who are very happy to practice and to fight for the team, to win games and do well. That is the interesting part of my job."

12/1 - Arsenal v Aston Villa: Cesc Fabregas to score the first goal

Copyright 2017 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to as the source
Richard Clarke 18 Aug 2006