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Frenchman pays tribute to professionalism of Gunners' skipper

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has paid tribute to captain Cesc Fabregas for remaining professional amid the intense speculation over his future.

Barcelona finally admitted defeat in their efforts to sign Fabregas this week after the World Cup winner declared his commitment to the Gunners, and manager Wenger will be pleased the transfer saga has come to an end.

Wenger feels Fabregas' approach since pledging his allegiance to the club has been excellent and is now looking forward to his skipper returning to first-team duties.

"Cesc has been very good, despite all of that story, his love for the club was never under threat," Wenger told reporters.

"You could understand he was torn between Barcelona and staying here, but he really deeply loves the club. His attitude has been completely spot-on."

Wenger added: "I tried very hard to show him how much I want him to stay and of course you never completely know the outcome, but my resolution and determination was always very strong to keep him - and it was never a question of money."

Meanwhile, Arsenal have been linked with a move for Fulham 'keeper Mark Schwarzer, who handed in a transfer request last week, but Wenger would not be drawn into commenting on any transfer targets.

He stressed: "What is important is for us to focus on players who are in the squad and not give too much room to any speculation.

"I believe that we have goalkeepers who have quality and class - they have a good opportunity to show that on Sunday."

The Gunners boss added: "We do not need to buy to play well on Sunday.

"When everyone is fit and available, we have quite a strong squad.

"Also, we have this stupid rule in place with the 25 players, so everybody has to look not to have too many players."

Wenger may be preparing for his 15th campaign at the helm since arriving at Highbury in September 1996, but the former Monaco boss says the desire for success still burns as strongly as ever.

"I love to win and I love football - I can combine the two and that is what keeps me hungry," he said.

"It has nothing to do with the number of years you are in the job, it is just your nature - if I play any game with you, I will want to win it. If I lose I am sad."

As Arsenal head to Anfield hoping to open their account for this campaign, Wenger admits it isn't ideal but will be a great test to start the new season.

He said: "It is a good opportunity to have a good start against a good team.

"We are ready and are excited by the new challenge.

"We finished third last year and the target is to do better.

"I believe we have room for improvement and that is what we want to show."

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