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Five Aside
By ESPN Staff

D-Day looms for Cole over Arsenal future

Arsenal left-back Ashley Cole returned to training today amid speculation he is set to join Chelsea in a £25million deal.

Arsenal confirmed the England defender had returned to training at London Colney following his honeymoon while the rest of the first team squad continued with their pre-season tour in Austria.

They are due to return home after their final game tonight and Cole's future will be decided in the next few days.

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger will reluctantly sanction Cole's move across London to join the Premiership champions.

Relations between Cole and Arsenal have been strained ever since the player blasted the club over the `tapping-up' scandal involving Chelsea.

Arsenal vice-chairman David Dein has already confirmed that discussions have taken place with Chelsea but he stressed that Cole would remain an Arsenal player unless `something changes'.

Those initial talks are likely to gather pace over the next few days as Chelsea are certain to want Cole to be a Blues player by the time they have to register their squad for the coming Champions League campaign.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger still insists he wants Cole to remain at the Emirates Stadium - even after the player's outburst over the club's handling of the tapping-up affair with Chelsea.

The 25-year-old, who recently married Girls Aloud singer Cheryl Tweedy, criticised Arsenal while promoting his forthcoming autobiography.

Cole said: ``Arsenal hung me out to dry, using me as a scapegoat to get back at Chelsea. The board `rewarded' me with an insult and threw years of loyalty back in my face.

``I'll reveal the shattering truth about who fed me to the sharks. It changed my view forever on the club I regarded as family.''

Cole still has two years remaining on his contract but relations with Wenger have became strained.

Prior to their Champions League final against Barcelona, the player revealed how Wenger had said little to him as he battled to get fit for the end of Arsenal's season and England's World Cup campaign in Germany.

But Arsenal will make Chelsea pay a hefty price for the player they have coveted since last year. Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho and Cole were both hit with record fines for their involvement in the secret transfer talks and relations between the two clubs plunged to an all-time low as a result.

However, Cole then signed a one-year extension to his contract which tied him to the club until 2008.