Despite signing Danny Welbeck on transfer deadline day, Arsenal continue to be linked with options to improve their attack when the transfer window reopens in January. Pressure centered on manager Arsene Wenger to add a striker to his squad following an early season injury to Olivier Giroud, which is set to rule him out for the rest of 2014, and he responded by agreeing to spend £16 million of the club’s money to secure Danny Welbeck from Manchester United. Welbeck could well make his debut against Manchester City on Saturday, and gave Arsenal fans a tantalizing look at what he could bring to the Gunners with two goals in England’s Euro 2016 qualifying win over Switzerland earlier this week.
With Giroud set to return in January and the club already having Alexis Sanchez, Yaya Sanogo and Joel Campbell as forward options, not to mention Lukas Podolski and the returning Theo Walcott, it is difficult to imagine Wenger spending further in the forward area. Yet there have been numerous reports that the Gunners are one of the clubs to have been alerted by the early season performances of Valencia striker Paco Alcacer. After scoring 14 goals last season, the 21-year-old has begun this campaign well, scoring and adding an assist against Malaga last month. In his first start for Spain against Macedonia on Monday he did the same to create much buzz about his future.
Spanish publication Marca has reported that there are now a number of clubs circling him, especially as he has a release clause of just 18 million euros (£14.4m). Unsurprisingly, Valencia are now thought to be looking to extend Alcacer’s contract, which is currently set to end in 2016, and part of that will surely involve a significant rising of the buy-out clause.
But Alcacer is not the only forward linked with Arsenal. According to the Daily Mail, Arsenal are one of the big-name Premier League clubs to have had their interest peaked by 18-year-old PSV Eindhoven prospect Zakaria Bakkali rejecting a new contract at the Dutch club. Bakkali, who can play wide or through the middle, came to prominence when scoring a hat-trick in just his fourth appearance for the club last season when aged 17. But things have not gone so smoothly since, and PSV hinted that the young Belgian is having his career negatively impacted by outside influences.
“Of course it's bad for the club,” PSV sporting director Marcel Brands said, reports the Mail. “But I think it's actually worse for the player himself. It is a shame that a young player with talent does not choose the right path. People might think I am naive but I don't blame the guy or his father. The problem is that Zakaria is getting influenced by everything and everyone around him.”
More likely, though, is that, if Wenger does go into the transfer market in January, he does so to address his defensive shortcomings. The sale of Thomas Vermaelen has left Arsenal with just six established defenders and only three viable options at center-backs. There have even be rumors that Wenger could add an experienced central defender before the transfer window reopens by signing free agent Mario Yepes.
The 38-year-old, who was with Italian side Atalanta last season, has also played for clubs including Milan and Paris Saint-Germain and impressed for Colombia at the 2014 World Cup. He is some way past his best, though, and would surely lack the pace to succeed in the Premier League. There also looks to be little to the speculation, with the Colombian press picking up on the Daily Mail simply throwing his name out there as a possible target and then being linked back to by the British tabloids.
Elsewhere, the Daily Mirror reports that Arsenal will look to continue their penchant for luring young players from Barcelona by going after 19-year-old midfielder Sergi Samper. The Spain Under-19 international was a regular in Barcelona’s B team last season but has yet to make his debut for the senior side. While he has a release clause of £9.5 million, it is thought that Samper intends to work his way into the thinking of new Barcelona coach Luis Enrique.