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By ESPN Staff
Aug 18, 2006

Wenger drops Cole from Arsenal opener

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has dropped wantaway defender Ashley Cole from his side's Premiership opener against Aston Villa on Saturday.

'I have made myself available for selection this weekend and it is now up to the manager whether he decides to play me,' the England World Cup left back said.

However, Wenger later told a news conference that Cole would not be in the squad to play Villa at Arsenal's new Emirates Stadium.

'I gave permission for him to leave but we have not reached that deadline yet,' said Wenger. 'I could put him in the squad tomorrow but he could be sold tonight.'

Wenger said Cole would be considered for selection for Arsenal's home Champions League third qualifying round second leg against Dinamo Zagreb (Arsenal lead 3-0).

'I maintain I have no problem with the fans and the manager. They have both been very supportive of me throughout my career,' the 25-year-old Cole said in a statement.

'In particular I hope the fans understand where my grievances lie,' added Cole who is the subject of a reported £16.5 million offer from Chelsea according to British media reports.

The relationship of Cole, a product of Arsenal's youth scheme, with the north London club soured more than a year ago when he was fined for meeting Chelsea officials including manager Jose Mourinho without his club's knowledge.

Cole, who helped Arsenal reach the Champions League final in May, has criticised the club for making him a scapegoat over the tapping-up.

Wenger, who left Cole out of the Arsenal side for the first leg of the Champions League tie against Dynamo Zagreb last week, said at the beginning of this week he wanted the matter of Chelsea's interest settled by this weekend.

A week ago, Chelsea appeared to have lost all hope of signing Cole for this season, releasing a statement in which they said: 'Although discussions have continued, Arsenal's valuation of the player does not match Chelsea's and therefore no agreement can be reached in the current circumstances.'

Wenger also admitted that he is willing to work with Cole again if no agreement can be made over a transfer.

He told Arsenal TV Online: 'If he doesn't go, of course he's a great player.

'He has permission to go somewhere if he wants to do it, but if there is not an opportunity for him and the club, he will stay at the club.'

Wenger insisted that a hasty conclusion to the Cole saga was of paramount importance both to the player and his club.

Wenger added on Sky Sports News: 'He has permission to leave if he can agree with any other club but he has not done that so he is available for us.

'But of course the situation has to be stopped very soon because it is not good for him. And it is not good for us as well because we do not really know if we can rely on him or not.

'I feel if I include him today then he could be transferred tomorrow. But when I give somebody the promise that he can leave I do not renege on my word and we have given him that promise.

'Of course I would have to stop that very, very soon because we could not go on like that. It must be resolved quickly one way or the other.'