After the international break, Arsenal will resume their quest to secure a place in the Champions League for an 18th consecutive season when taking on Liverpool on Saturday. Yet they do so amid a cranking up of the speculation surrounding who Arsene Wenger will add to his squad in the transfer market this summer.
Arsenal sit in third place in the Premier League and, with a five point lead over fifth-placed Liverpool, could go a long way toward booking their place in the top four with victory this weekend. Yet a title challenge is again out of their reach, while for the fifth consecutive season the Gunners crashed out of the Champions League at the Round of 16, following a bitterly disappointing loss to Monaco. If Arsenal are to again challenge for the two major trophies then further improvements look necessary.
It increasingly appears that one of the areas Wenger is intent on bolstering is in attack. Paulo Dybala has been one of the biggest breakthrough stars in Europe this season, scoring 12 goals and adding seven assists for Palermo in Serie A. The 21-year-old’s form has long been reported to have attracted the attention of some of the continent’s biggest clubs. And, according to Palermo president Maurizio Zamparini, Arsenal have already been in touch about securing Dybala’s services. He has also reiterated, however, that the Argentinean will not be allowed to depart for less than 40 million euros (£29 million).
"Juventus and Arsenal have already made offers for the boy,” he told Radio Marte in Italy. "[Pierpaolo] Triuzi, his agent, will be on Italy on Friday. My view hasn’t changed -- someone like Dyabala cannot be available for less than 40 million euros. He would prefer to stay in Italy and play in Serie A. Of the English clubs who have shown interest, Arsenal is the first choice, because of the way they play under Wenger."
There also continue to be rumors that Arsenal are keen on Chelsea’s Petr Cech. Wojciech Szczesny has lost his place as Arsenal’s No. 1 this season, and, although replacement David Ospina has performed well, there may still be doubts about whether the Colombian is the man to fill the position long term. With Cech looking set to be on the move this summer, it is easy to see why Arsenal, and many clubs, would be interested.
Cech has played second fiddle to Thibaut Courtois at Stamford Bridge this season, but only recently stressed that he was not prepared to do so for another campaign. The 32-year-old’s agent has previously suggested that a transfer to the Emirates would be welcomed, however, according to the Daily Mail, Arsenal will wait to make sure that Chelsea will be amenable to an approach before making their move. While Cech looks likely to depart, Chelsea may not be keen to sell him to one of their main rivals.
Along with the potential arrivals, there could also be some significant departures in this summer’s transfer window. Two years on from his last contract wrangle, Theo Walcott’s future is again the subject of much discussion as the forward nears the final year of his contract. The 26-year-old signed a big-money deal last time around, but his lack of playing time since returning from almost an entire year lost to injury in 2014 has fueled doubts about whether he will put pen to paper to extend a deal that is set to expire in the summer of 2016. Liverpool have again been linked, and The Times has now reported that Premier League leaders Chelsea are also monitoring the situation.
Speculation also continues about a player who has very much been a key figure for Arsenal in recent months, Santi Cazorla. The Spain international was strongly linked with a move to Atletico Madrid this summer, and, while he stayed put to rediscover his very best in an Arsenal shirt this season, talk of a move to the La Liga champions has never gone away. Cazorla was asked about the potential transfer this week, but stressed he was happy with the Gunners.
"Like everyone else, I’ve heard about the interest," he told Spanish publication El Mundo. "But, to date, I’ve not heard from anyone, they are just rumors. I’m focused on Arsenal, where I am happy I have another year [on my contract] and another year optional. As long as I feel valued [I’ll stay], although you never know what will happen in the future."