Chelsea's hopes of completing a summer deal to sign Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain look to have been dashed after Arsene Wenger publicly insisted that the versatile England international will remain at Arsenal.
Doubts regarding Oxlade-Chamberlain's future have circulated all summer, with the 24-year-old, alongside several of his teammates, having entered the final year of his contract in north London and yet to agree any extension.
Liverpool were initially believed to be the main interested party and Manchester City have also been credited with an interest, although Chelsea are now believed to be front-runners as Antonio Conte seeks to further strengthen his threadbare title-winning squad before the end of the transfer window.
The Evening Standard suggested over the weekend that Chelsea were growing "increasingly confident" of agreeing a fee of around £35m ($45m) for Oxlade-Chamberlain having received the necessary encouragement that a deal between the title rivals could indeed be feasible. Goal understands that he is pushing for wages of £150,000-a-week.
Wenger has been keen to stress that the former Southampton prodigy is not for sale and even tipped him for future greatness. He reaffirmed that position on Wednesday (16 August), insisting that, like Alexis Sanchez and Aston Villa target Jack Wilshere, Oxlade-Chamberlain would not be leaving the Emirates Stadium.
"Yes [Oxlade-Chamberlain will be at Arsenal this season]," he told reporters at a press conference held prior to Saturday's Premier League trip to Stoke City. "Because I rate him highly, he is a player who is on his way up.
"In the last year he has made huge progress, I want him to stay here for a long time. I'm convinced he will be maybe the English player in the next two or three years everyone will look at."
Further quizzed if his stance would remain unchanged even if the player asked to depart, Wenger, who is pleased that none of his current crop have submitted transfer requests, added: "Yes. I have regular conversations with the players were I tell them where I stand. They know what I want and where I stand on that front."
Oxlade-Chamberlain is far from the only Arsenal player to have only months remaining on their current deals, with Sanchez, Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla and Jack Wilshere also on expiring contracts along with fringe squad members such as Kieran Gibbs, Carl Jenkinson, Joel Campbell and Matt Macey.
Such a strategy might be considered risky, although Wenger appeared to suggest that the Gunners are prepared to sacrifice substantial transfer fees and allow players to run those deals down if necessary.
"It's not an ideal situation on the financial side, it demands some sacrifice," he added. "But it doesn't mean the players will not extend their contract, we still have that possibility and we work on that as well."