Having strengthened their hold on a top-four place in the Premier League and booked a spot in the semifinals of the FA Cup, it has been a positive past week for Arsenal. Yet a chastening 3-1 home defeat to Monaco in the first leg of the Champions League Round of 16 two weeks ago still looms large, and should ensure that there is little complacency from Arsene Wenger over the need to bolster his squad in the transfer market this summer.
Despite the largely impressive performances of Francis Coquelin, the continued fitness worries of Mikel Arteta could well mean it is a defensive midfielder which tops the list of targets. Southampton’s Morgan Schneiderlin has already been strongly linked with a move to the Emirates Stadium, with reports in January even suggesting that a transfer had all-but been agreed for the end of the season. The France international had fought to leave Southampton last summer, and, while he disputes that he has been in talks with Arsenal, he has strongly suggested that he will soon be on the move.
“I have a contract until 2017,” he told Canal Plus, reports the Daily Mail. “Today, I aspire to play at the highest level. I haven't been in contact with Wenger. There are clubs that are interested, but I haven't agreed to join anyone. I am concentrating on my matches. I know for sure that something is going to happen.”
Given the January signing of Gabriel Paulista, the arrival of another central defender would not appear to be a priority, yet the continued struggles of Per Mertesacker may alter Wenger’s plans. That appears to be the thinking behind a Daily Mail report that Manchester United defensive duo Jonny Evans and Chris Smalling have been discussed as targets at the Emirates. Smalling has twice previously captured the interest of Wenger, firstly before he left Fulham for Old Trafford in 2010 and then last summer when a swap deal was mooted for Thomas Vermaelen. Both Smalling and Evans could be deemed surplus to requirements by Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal at the end of the season after failing to deliver consistent high-level performances at the heart of the defense.
The Mail also suggests that Arsenal are keen on Dynamo Kiev defender Aleksandar Dragovic. The Austria international is said to be valued at £15 million and is also drawing interest from Manchester United and West Ham.
Elsewhere, there are continued reports that Arsenal are looking to increase their forward options with a transfer for Milan’s Stephan El Shaarawy. The 22-year-old has been regularly linked with a move to several Premier League clubs since he scored 16 goals in Serie A two seasons ago. His performances have been considerably more patchy since and he is currently out injured with a broken metatarsal. And, while flattered by Arsenal’s reported interest, the Italy international states his focus is on returning to fitness and helping a struggling Milan side.
“I am gratified by Arsenal's interest, certainly, but my objective is to come back for Milan and do well at Milan,” he said, reports the Daily Mirror.