Arsenal’s big-money summer signing Mesut Ozil provided a triumphant debut on Saturday as he set-up a goal and supplied plenty of fine moments in a 3-1 victory over Sunderland. But, according to Italian publication Gazzetta dello Sport, Arsene Wenger had an alternative in mind had he been unable to secure the German’s club-record £42.5 million transfer from Real Madrid.
The Ozil deal was only sanctioned in the closing hours of the transfer window after Madrid had finally completed the signing of Gareth Bale. But Gazzeetta claims that if something had gone wrong then Arsenal would have quickly moved for Lazio’s Hernanes.
The 28-year-old, who was part of the Brazil squad that lifted the Confederations Cup over the summer, has previously been linked with Tottenham. In his fourth season in Rome after arriving from Sao Paulo, Hernanes likely would have cost around half of what the Gunners paid for Ozil.
There appears little chance of Wenger reigniting his interest in Hernanes anytime soon. Arsenal are now well stocked with attacking midfielders, as Ozil joins Santi Cazorla and Tomas Rosicky at the Emirates.
An area of the squad that it seems certain that Wenger would still like to strengthen is up front. Approaches failed for both Gonzalo Higuain and Luis Suarez over the summer, leaving Arsenal short of alternatives for Olivier Giroud. Indeed, Wenger has confirmed his concern at the situation was what led him to blocking Nicklas Bendtner’s move to Crystal Palace.
Unattached Romanian striker Ciprian Marica has been strongly mooted as a target who could join the club immediately. However, other strikers are also said to be on Wenger’s radar heading into the reopening of the transfer window in January.
Indeed, the Daily Mail claims that Suarez still remains very much in Wenger’s thinking. Arsenal failed with a now infamous bid of £40 million and £1 in the summer with Liverpool stating categorically that the Uruguayan would not be sold to Arsenal -- an anticipated rival for a Champions League place. It is difficult to see that situation changing come midseason. Real Madrid have also been linked with making a move for Suarez in January.
Wenger was also not shy in discussing his interest in Wayne Rooney during the close season. Ultimately, it was Chelsea which pursued the England international strongest and ended up having two bids rejected. Manchester United repeatedly claimed that Rooney was not for sale, despite the player’s unhappiness at Old Trafford.
The Mail, though, believes that Arsenal could sanction a £30 million bid for the 27-year-old in January. While Rooney now seems more settled at United under David Moyes, his future will continue to be the source of speculation until he signs a new contract. His current deal will have just 18 months to run come the next transfer window.
Arsenal are also among the clubs monitoring Fernando Llorente’s situation at Juventus, according to the Daily Mirror. The Gunners had been linked with the Spain striker before he signed a pre-contract agreement to join the Italian champions on a free transfer. Llorente, though, has made just one substitute appearance since his arrival this summer, sparking speculation about his future. Such talk is somewhat absurd at this stage, however. Llotente hardly played for Athletic Bilbao last season as part of a dispute over his exit and it was always likely to take him time to get back up to speed.
While the signing of Ozil took a large chunk of out the club's budget, it is believed that Arsenal still have significant funds to spend. Fans may also be clamoring for the club to continue to enhance their squad after it was revealed by Forbes on Monday that chairman Stan Kroenke’s wealth stands at $5.3 billion (£3.3b), making the St. Louis Rams owner the second richest owner in the NFL.