Wenger issues Cesc title challenge

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Arsene Wenger has challenged wantaway captain Cesc Fabregas to help drive the Gunners towards Barclays Premier League title next season.

The Spain midfielder, 23, is not scheduled to return to England until after this weekend's Emirates Cup for Arsenal's official photocall on August 5 as, along with Holland striker Robin van Persie, he was given extra time off following the World Cup final. Before he departed to South Africa, Fabregas is understood to have told Wenger of his desire to leave and rejoin boyhood club Barcelona.

"I always said Cesc Fabregas will be our captain next year and that we want to keep him. Despite all the speculation last season and the whole summer, nothing has changed," declared the Gunners boss, whose side will host AC Milan and Celtic over the next 48 hours.

The Catalan club continued a very public pursuit of their former trainee all summer, but Arsenal remain steadfast the midfielder - under contract for another five seasons - is not for sale and have already rejected a £30million offer.

Barcelona, publicly at least, appear to have admitted defeat in their quest to land Fabregas before the transfer window closes at the end of August.

Wenger remains confident his talisman will be fully focussed on playing his part for Arsenal next season, when the Gunners aim to land a first title since the invincible campaign of 2003/2004.

"Cesc has always said he is committed to the club and he has always shown it," said Wenger.

"The best way to show you are committed is that you give your best when you walk on the football pitch and he has always done that.

"Look at the length of his contract and you will see he has five or six years to go. When you sign a contract it means we are committed to a player to pay him and keep him no matter what happens."

Wenger added: "It is important we focus on the targets we have together."

Copyright (c) PA Sport 2009, All Rights Reserved.

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Robin Van Persie
Premier League

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