Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger appears intent on stealing some of Premier League champion Leicester City’s magic potion, and it may all start with emerging striker and scorer Jamie Vardy. While many reports have confirmed that a deal is close, Vardy’s yet to make a decision on whether he’ll depart King Power for the Emirates.
Arsenal activated the 29-year-old Englishman’s £22 million release clause over the weekend, and talks have taken place between this year’s English champions and the runner-up. That leaves Vardy to choose between a Cinderella club in Leicester or a perennial under-achiever in Arsenal.
Arsenal were expecting a response by Monday, offering him a £120,000-a-week deal. There is still no confirmation that a deal is confirmed, and both Arsenal and Leicester City have no mention of Vardy on their official websites.
After scoring 24 goals in Leicester’s title run, Vardy quickly became one of the most prominent faces in the Premier League. His surprise ascendance also came with numerous high-profile suitors like Chelsea and Manchester City.
Admiration for Vardy has grown so much that England national team coach Roy Hodgson has required assurances that he focus solely on the upcoming Euro 2016 tournament. England open the tournament Saturday against Russia in Marseilles.
"The one thing this group of players know and have accepted is that, when you are on England duty, you are on England duty," Hodgson told reporters last week. "It is not a question of you sorting out your future, or diving off for medicals.
"We are not trying to block players’ futures or transfers, but as far as we are concerned, our ongoing theme is that England is England, your club is your club. While you are with England we want you to stay focused on us."
Wenger, though, is acting and speaking as if the deal is done and Vardy’s already made his decision. The Frenchman recently told beIN Sports that he doesn’t expect Vardy to start for England.
"I don't think that Vardy will be a starter [for England]," Wenger said. "He has earned his place in the squad.
"I don't say this because he does not have the quality, but he doesn't have enough experience at that level to say the whole tournament will depend on Vardy. Will he be there? Certainly.
"Football progresses always. The offences creates a new problem, the defence responds. What has happened in the last 10 years is that the strikers have become quicker and quicker.
"What's happened? The defence have responded by creating quicker and quicker defenders."
Arsenal's transfer plans may extend beyond a striker, even after signing versatile midfielder Granit Xhaka in a £30 million deal from Borussia Monchengladbach last month. The Sun reported Monday that Arsenal are also in pursuit of Vardy's teammate, Riyad Mahrez, a right winger who is also coming off a breakthrough season.
Such a two-player swoop might be a stretch. It also would almost certainly signal the end of Theo Walcott's time with the Gunners. Last week, the Sun even linked midfielder Jack Wilshere to Manchester City.
Meanwhile, Daily Mail reported 21-year-old defender Calum Chambers could be loaned to Watford.