With the season approaching its conclusion, Arsenal, along their rivals at the top of the Premier League, will already be well advanced in preparations to strengthen their squad in this summer’s transfer window. But one area of his team that manager Arsène Wenger has dismissed as needing attention is his goalkeepers.
Wojciech Szczesny has lost his place as the club’s No. 1, with last summer’s signing David Ospina taking the gloves in recent months. And there has been plenty of speculation that Wenger will look to bring in a top-class option between the posts in the close season. One name linked particularly keenly has been Chelsea’s Petr Cech. After 10 years at Stamford Bridge, Cech has lost his place as first-choice this season to young Belgian Thibaut Courtois. It looks highly likely that he will be on the move this summer, and the 32-year-old’s agent has previously suggested that a transfer to Arsenal would be of interest.
Another big goalkeeping name to be linked is Iker Casillas. The Real Madrid captain’s future has been the subject of debate, with strong rumors suggesting the European champions will make a move for Manchester United’s David de Gea. But the 33-year-old this week dismissed the possibility of an exit from the Bernabeu, saying “Where am I going to be better off than here?”
And, speaking in his press-conference ahead of Arsenal’s visit to Hull City on Monday, Wenger provided reasons why he wouldn’t require Casillas, Cech or any other established goalkeeper.
“No, not necessarily,” he said. “I believe in the goalkeepers I have. I believe that Szczesny is a very good goalkeeper and Ospina has come in and done a fantastic job. Look at the numbers in the premier league, look at who is top of the goalkeepers and you will see it is Ospina.”
Of course, Wenger is hardly likely to say publicly if indeed he did believe his current set of goalkeepers required an upgrade, potentially damaging their morale ahead of the end of the Premier League season and the FA Cup final. However, Wenger is incredibly patient, arguably overly so, in giving his player’s chances to prove that they are up to the very top level.
That has been seen with the deep-lying midfield position, where Arsenal have looked short on quality for several seasons. Although Francis Coquelin has come in into the team and performed impressively since January, it would surely be a risk to depend wholly on the Frenchman next season.
Thus a link with Borussia Dortmund’s Ilkay Gundogan makes sense. The Germany international was said to be on the verge of completing a move to Manchester United last week, although those claims were dismissed by Dortmund. But on Thursday Dortmund released a statement stating that the 24-year-old would not stay beyond the expiration of his current contract in 2016. That means he is highly likely to depart this summer, so that Dortmund can still receive a reasonable fee for his services.
The Telegraph has now reported that Arsenal, as well as United, have Gundogan down as a possible midfield target and watched him closely in January. Gundogan missed more than a year of action with a serious back problem before returning last October. But his combination of technique on the ball and tenacity without it would see him both complement Wenger’s style and offer the Arsenal team something it has often lacked in the middle of the pitch.
The issue of Arsenal’s strikers has also been in the spotlight this week, with the club’s leading scorer in history, Thierry Henry stating that he didn’t think Olivier Giroud was good enough to lead the club to a Premier League title. Meanwhile, Giroud’s leading rival for the striker berth, Danny Welbeck, has been lamenting his return of just eight goals since joining from Manchester United last year.
At the same time there continues to be talk of Arsenal’s interest in Palermo’s Paulo Dybala. The Argentinean 21-year-old has emerged as one of the leading talents in Europe this season, and has also been linked with Manchester United and Juventus. Palermo owner Maurizio Zamparini has said that the player could well leave, but not for anything less than 40 million euros (£29.6 million). With Inter Milan joining the list of interested parties, though, there are strong suggestions, from the Daily Mirror and others, that Dybala is likely to stay in Italy.