Forget Cesc, is this Wenger’s biggest transfer dilemma this summer?

Arsene Wenger has revealed he is ‘very optimistic’ about Samir Nasri extending his contract with Arsenal, even though the 23-year-old Frenchman and full-back Gael Clichy are moving towards the final year of their current deals.

The Gunners boss said: “We are talking to Nasri and his agent already and we have the same situation with Clichy. We have agreed to speak about it during the summer. When you sign a contract for four or five years, you are committed through your contract to win trophies with the club where you sign. It is in no contract that if you do not win a trophy the first year, you can leave.”

Nasri’s situation is particularly frustrating for Wenger seeing as he believed that the midfielder had agreed on a four-year extension that would have almost doubled his annual salary to £5 million. But Nasri stalled following the club’s rapid elimination from the Champions League by Barcelona and the FA Cup to Manchester United at Old Trafford, following a last-gasp defeat to Birmingham in the League Cup in February. It is understood that Nasri’s agent, Jean-Pierre Bernes, is now seeking assurances on Arsenal’s summer transfer strategy in addition to improved financial terms for his client who has scored 15 goals in 45 appearances this season and was nominated for the PFA Player of the Year award.

Whilst the Gunners’ manager may be correct in stating the lack of trophy guarantees within Nasri’s contract, the 2010 France Football French Player of the Year would certainly have expected more from his three years of service at the Emirates. Negotiations have not been assisted by Wenger’s distrust of Bernes’ association with Marseille’s tainted French championship successes of the late 1980s and early 1990s, with the agent’s increasing influence on his young star causing significant concern.

What’s more, Wenger has become a progressively confrontational and irate figure as his team’s form has deteriorated, and last month he accused the Spanish football magazine, Don Balon, of ‘twisting the words’ of his captain, Cesc Fabregas, into criticism of not only the team but Wenger as well. The publication subsequently released a recording in which the player apparently declares that Arsenal have a decision to make between developing young talent and winning trophies, and that no major Spanish clubs would be patient enough to allow their managers to go six seasons without claiming a trophy, as Wenger has.

Although Fabregas proclaimed his intentions to leave the Emirates following a bid of around £35million from Barcelona last summer, he was convinced by his manager to complete at least a further portion of his contract that runs until the summer of 2015. While Arsenal remain in a strong contractual position over their captain, despite their continually depleting control, they risk losing Nasri for free in 12 months if they fail to persuade the French international to sign a new deal. Gunners fans have been here before, and had to witness the departure of Mathieu Flamini for no return three years ago when the French midfielder left for AC Milan having featured in 40 of Arsenal’s fixtures during his last season in north London. Wenger was reluctant to offer Flamini a new deal seeing as he had spent three seasons drifting in and out of the first-team, but the former Marseilles player forced his way in to the starting XI alongside Fabregas, at the expense of Gilberto Silva, and made his debut for France during a committed final campaign in the Premier League.

Flamini carried a reputation for disappointing managers after moving from Marseilles to Arsenal without money changing hands, having been a key contributor to the club’s run to the 2004 UEFA Cup Final, leaving then manager, Jose Anigo, to bark: “He’s a traitor – this is a beautiful treason.” Nasri represents a far greater cause for trepidation considering his consistent importance to the side, and with Fabregas’ inevitable departure, Wenger can ill afford to lose possibly his most dependable and potent asset. The French professor has a propensity for convincing his ailing stars to stay longer than they wish, as evidenced with Thierry Henry and of course his current skipper, and whilst Nasri may be induced by Wenger’s charms this summer, he will have to seriously contemplate an easy exit next year if Arsenal don’t demonstrate significant improvement at the beginning of next season.

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