Arsenal were linked with a host of right-backs during the summer and it has now been confirmed that Arsene Wenger was indeed looking to strengthen in that position. Atletico Madrid’s Juanfran has revealed that he rejected the chance to join the Gunners.
With 30-year-old Bacary Sagna in the final year of his contract and Carl Jenkinson still inexperienced, Wenger had been linked to a host of right-backs, including Sochaux’s Sebastien Corchia. But it appears the situation reached an advanced stage with Juanfran. The 28-year-old is in his third season at the Vicente Calderon having begun his career at Real Madrid. A non-playing member of Spain’s victorious Euro 2012 squad, Juanfran said that he never had any intention of leaving Atletico.
“It is true that I had an offer from Arsenal that any player would have liked to have accepted," he explained to Marca.com. "But I am very happy here. For me, as everyone knows, there is no better club than Atletico."
Sagna has also been used at center-back on occasion this season as Arsenal’s lack of strength in depth at that position has been exposed. All of Arsenal’s three established central defenders Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker and Thomas Vermaelen have been unavailable at various stages thus far and that may sharpen Wenger’s mind to reinforce that position in January.
According to the Daily Express, citing reports in Italy, Arsenal have already lined up Schalke’s Kyriakos Papadopoulos. The highly rated Greece international was strongly linked with an £11 million move to Liverpool during the summer, but a transfer never materialized. Perhaps the fact that the 21-year-old was recovering from a serious knee injury that kept him out for the second half of last season made Liverpool hesitate. Papadopoulos has yet to feature for Schalke this campaign.
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Whether Arsenal move for a center-back could well depend on if Wenger sees Sagna as a viable long-term option in that position. The France international recently stated that he believes the center of defense is where he will play as he slows down toward the end of his career.
Still, Arsenal’s main concern currently is likely to remain trying to reinforce their squad up front. Having failed to land several targets during the close season, the Gunners have been left short of alternatives for Olivier Giroud. When Giroud was initially struggling for fitness ahead of Wednesday’s victory over Marseille, Arsenal’s lack of options to fill the striking role was suddenly exposed.
With the transfer window over, talk of late has suggested that Wenger was keen on signing out-of-contract former Schalke striker Ciprian Marica. However, according to respected Italian journalist Gianluca di Marzio, the Gunners are no longer interested in the Romania international. Instead, Tottenham and West Ham could now battle it out for the 27-year-old’s signature.
Arsenal had also been prepared to pay significant sums to land a defensive midfielder over the summer. A bid of around £19 million was rejected for Bayer Leverkusen’s Lars Bender, before Wenger eventually decided to bring former Gunner Mathieu Flamini back to the club on a free transfer. Yet, according to the Daily Star, Arsenal could look to another Germany international to further reinforce the base of their midfield next summer.
Citing stories coming out of Italy, the Star believes that Arsenal are keen on Real Madrid’s Sami Khedira and that, furthermore, the player is interested in a move to the Emirates. Khedira, who was the subject of a rejected bid from Manchester United late in the transfer window, has revealed his disappointment with Madrid’s sale of Mesut Ozil to Arsenal.