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Liverpool and Arsenal set for showdown

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Liverpool and Arsenal set for showdown

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By ESPN Staff

Cole's Chelsea move hangs in the balance

Ashley Cole's hopes of joining Chelsea hung in the balance as the clock ticked down towards the end of the transfer window.

With just over 24 hours before no further business can be conducted, there was little sign of an end to the drawn-out saga which has engulfed the Arsenal and England defender for more than a year.

Although Cole wants to join the Barclays Premiership champions, the Gunners know they do not have to sell - unless the price is right.

Chelsea are understood to be ready to pay more than £20million for Cole, a figure which still falls some way below Arsenal's valuation.

Despite the apparent deadlock, with sources in both camps today admitting the prospect of brokering a deal looked unlikely, the move may yet be resurrected tomorrow - particularly if Blues defender William Gallas becomes an integral part of the package.

There is no doubt Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho still wants Cole, despite the recent signing of versatile defender Khalid Boulahrouz and the improved form of Wayne Bridge.

However, whether that is at any cost remains to be seen over the next day.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger admits he has already started to plan for life without Cole, currently away on England duty.

However, the Gunners boss intimated he would have no qualms about bringing the defender back into the fold should he still be at the club come Friday morning.

'After August 31, I will assess the situation. We will see what happens then,' Wenger said diplomatically last week when he again deflected the continuing questions on the future of his left-back as well as winger Jose Antonio Reyes.

Despite Cole's seemingly untenable position at Arsenal, having criticised the club in extracts from his soon-to-be-published book, there have been indications from the player he was willing to extend an olive branch of truce.

A statement was issued ahead of the opening Barclays Premiership game of the season declaring the full-back was available for selection if required, maintaining: 'I have no problem with the fans and the manager... in particular I hope the fans understand where my grievances lie.'

Wenger, though, has so far refused to select the player for any of his four first-team matches this season.

Cole did have a run-out for the reserves on Monday, to work on his match sharpness as much as anything else.

Arsenal chairman Peter Hill-Wood, meanwhile, suggested it would need more than words to win over hearts and minds of the Gunners' faithful.

'He is a very good player and if he is going to stay I hope his attitude is right,' said Hill-Wood.

'If he is going to be miserable and sour there is no point.'