Things are looking up at Arsenal. Eight wins in their last nine games have taken them up to third place in the Premier League and into the quarterfinals of the FA Cup. And this week they will go into the first leg of their Champions League last 16 tie with Monaco as favorites to reach the quarterfinals for the first time in five years. Yet, as Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho mischievously suggested on Sunday, expectations should now be higher at the Emirates Stadium after seeing their budget increase in the past two years. And that could well mean that the club is already planning on further squad strengthening in the summer.
With captain Mikel Arteta now aged 32 and continuing to suffer with injuries, a commanding midfield presence could finally be sought. Certainly there are plenty of rumors to suggest that such a plan is in Wenger’s mind.
According to the Daily Mirror, Arsenal maintain an interest in long-time target Lars Bender. The Bayer Leverkusen holding midfielder has been the subject of rejected bids from the Gunners in the past, with the player also previously stating that he was happy to remain with the Bundesliga club. The Mirror now believes that Arsenal face another obstacle, with Barcelona said to be keen on the Germany international. Given that the Catalans cannot make any signings until next January because of a transfer ban, the report is somewhat perplexing.
Still, it’s claimed that Arsenal have been deterred and will instead turn their attention to Southampton’s Morgan Schneiderlin. In fact, the France international has been linked with Arsenal for some time, with reports in January that a deal had been all but lined up for the summer. His astuteness without the ball would certainly seem to make him an ideal fit for Arsenal, and having been denied the chance to leave last summer, there appears a good chance he will be on the move if Southampton fail to reach the Champions League.
Arsenal could instead seek out a less costly midfield option. James Milner was suggested as an Arsenal target last year and he looks increasingly likely to be available for free at the end of the season, with The Sun reporting that the England international will head into the summer without signing a new contract. Milner, 29, is believed to want more regular first-team action and his ability to play all across the midfield may appeal to Wenger.
There has also been further news in recent days about a possible defensive target. Schalke’s World Cup winner Bendikt Höwedes was linked with Arsenal in January, and has now revealed that when he does make a move he would want it to be to the Premier League. It remains to seen whether Arsenal will still be interested in the versatile defender after signing Gabriel Paulista, but they may find Höwedes appreciative of their advances.
“If I am to leave Schalke one day, I do not want to move clubs within the Bundesliga,” he said, reports the Daily Mirror. “Schalke is too close to my heart to do so. But a move abroad at a certain time would be worth an experience. England would be my goal.”