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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Sep 1, 2006

Wenger relief at an end to Cole transfer saga

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger today expressed his relief that the Ashley Cole transfer saga was finally over and claimed the club could now focus on the future without any more distractions.

Speaking after a two-day meeting of European coaches in Geneva, Wenger refused to criticise Chelsea's role in the drawn-out tug of war over the England left-back but said he was delighted to have got France defender William Gallas in exchange.

'It was a big day yesterday and obviously it dragged on for a long time,' Wenger told PA Sport.

'It's good to have everybody focused on the main target which is to play good football and respond to the ambitions of Arsenal Football Club. The positive thing is that it is finally over.

'It was the wish of Ashley Cole to go to Chelsea and the wish of William Gallas to come to us so I'm relieved it has happened.'

Wenger, who spent most of his time during the meeting locked in conversation with the various protagonists involved in one of football's most tortuous transfers, was joined at the coaches' forum by Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson and former Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier.

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho was also invited but declined to attend, thereby avoiding direct confrontation with his Arsenal counterpart as the swap deal involving Cole and Gallas was concluded overnight. The Gunners also received £5million in the deal.

Wenger insisted Cole's desire to leave the club - and the imminent publication of his book which is understood to be hugely critical of the Arsenal regime - had not been responsible for his team's unconvincing start to the season.

'For me it was not too much of a distraction but you want things to be sorted out and it's more disturbing on the outside because everyone was asking the same question,' Wenger said.

'I would not say it affected our performances which have been more down to a lack of preparation after the World Cup and so many players still recovering.'

Commenting on Arsenal's other deal - which saw Julio Baptista join from Real Madrid and Jose Antonio Reyes go in the opposite direction - Wenger claimed the Brazilian would more than compensate for Reyes' departure.

'Reyes brought a lot but he wanted to go,' said Wenger. 'Baptista will bring power in the air and score goals. I can use him either up front or as a hanging attacking midfielder.

'We'll see how the swap works but I'm confident it will work well because Baptista is quick, strong and a team player.'

Meanwhile, the Premier League have announced the transfer of 18-year-old midfielder Denilson from Sao Paolo to Arsenal, although the club have not confirmed the move.