ARSENAL manager Arsene Wenger yesterday 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 said. "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."
Wenger 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 - and the imminent publication of his book which is understood to be 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.It's more disturbing on the outside because everyone was asking the same question."
"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."
Meanwhile, Leeds chief executive Shaun Harvey claims the Championship club are "disappointed" with Olivier Bernard after he turned his back on the club and rejoined Newcastle.
The French defender, 26, had his contract at Rangers cancelled on Thursday and, as a free agent, signed for the Magpies.
However, Leeds believed they had all but secured Bernard's signature after agreeing terms.
Harvey said: "Terms were agreed with the player for him to join Leeds, subject to him passing a medical. The player has since reneged on the agreement and joined Newcastle United.
"We are, both disappointed and relieved, as we would have very much liked Olivier Bernard to strengthen our squad.
"But if he did not want to play for Leeds United it is better to find out now, as we are only interested in players who are fully committed to the club."