Arsenal have already secured a major coup this summer by recruiting Chelsea’s long-time number one goalkeeper Petr Cech. It is unlikely to be the end of Arsenal’s summer transfer business, although there is plenty of doubt about where Arsene Wenger’s attention is now being focused.
Signing a top-class goalkeeper was Wenger’s priority in the offseason, and with that now accomplished, speculation is focusing on what is believed to have been the Arsenal manager’s second order of business: landing a holding midfielder. A more disciplined physical presence to balance out the attacking instincts of the club’s other midfielders has long been required at the Emirates. Yet the impressive performances of Francis Coquelin in the second half of the season may be leading Wenger to doubt whether it is still worth spending big to strengthen that department.
Southampton’s Morgan Schneiderlin has been a name long linked with Arsenal, and is a player who would appear an ideal fit after establishing himself as one of the very best defensive midfielders in the Premier League in the past two seasons. Yet various reports suggest Arsenal have dropped their pursuit, with the France international having appeared poised to join Manchester United. The possibility of Arsenal making a late intervention remains, however, given Sky Sports’ contention that United haven’t followed up their initial approach to Southampton 10 days ago. Still, an asking price believed to be at least £25 million may prove too steep for the Gunners.
Instead, there have been excited reports in recent days suggesting that a £21 million deal to take Juventus’ Arturo Vidal to the Emirates was close to completion. The rumors always appeared doubtful given that Juventus would have little reason to sell the influential Chile international while the future of fellow midfielder Paul Pogba remained up in the air, and the fact that, while a very aggressive player, he is hardly the holding midfielder Arsenal are believed to be seeking. The figures being quoted are also on the low side for a player of Vidal’s profile, even considering his off-the-pitch issues which continued with his arrest for crashing his Ferrari while under the influence of alcohol during the Copa America in Chile. And The Telegraph has now stated that Arsenal’s interest has been brought to an end.
Another name does remain in the mix for Arsenal, though, and it will be a familiar one to Gunners fans. Sporting Lisbon’s William Carvalho has been touted as the next big thing for some time, leading to speculation linking him with Arsenal and Manchester United among others. That fervor over his future had died down somewhat, but has been revived off the back of his standout performances in helping Portugal reach the final of the European Under-21 Championship.
The 23-year-old is already a feature of the senior Portugal setup and, according to the London Evening Standard, Arsenal are one of the clubs now giving him a serious look. But with Carvalho having a contract that runs until 2018, persuading Sporting to sell at a price Arsenal consider reasonable promises to be no mean feat.
It remains possible that, as he has done in the past, Wenger considers that his current options are good enough to get by rather than spending over the odds in the transfer market. That, though, would prove a risky move. While Coquelin showed his qualities last season, there is little depth in the holding midfield role. Mathieu Flamini is now 31 years old, has suffered from numerous injuries, and struggled to make an impact since his initial success when returning to the club two years ago. And it is highly doubtful how much 33-year-old Mikel Arteta can now contribute in the role. Never a natural in the position, the Spaniard’s physical attributes have been further dented by age and persistent injuries and he has yet to agree on a new contract to stay beyond this summer.