Things are heating up for Arsenal, as the London club look to get an early start on the summer transfer period.
Arsene Wenger had to scratch Mario Gotze off his summer wish list, as the German playmaker signed a new long-term deal with Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday.
The 19-year-old had been an Arsenal target for several months, and with midfielder Eden Hazard's price tag hovering over £30 million, Wenger now has to search for other candidates to bolster the squad.
A few names have already received attention this week.
The Daily Mirror reported that the Gunners are stepping up efforts to add Jan Vertonghen at £7 million, which might be considered a tremendous bargain. The 24-year-old centre back will be out of a contract at the end of next season with Ajax.
The prospect of pairing Vertonghen with Thomas Vermaelen has to be enticing for Wenger. The Belgian duo are in their prime, and both are capable of playing other positions, which is important considering how Arsenal have been plagued by injuries in recent months.
Centre back Per Mertesacker had ankle surgery in February and could miss a significant amount of time. The loss of the German international has forced Wenger to play Laurent Koscielny a little more than he'd probably prefer. Should Arsenal acquire a quality and versatile player like Vertonghen, Wenger would not only be adding depth to the roster, but also perhaps positioning certain players to accept different roles, like having Johan Djourou play more of a defensive midfielder role.
The Mirror also cited how winger Andrey Arshavin's loan move to Zenit St Petersburg would likely become permanent. The publication also expects loaned forwards Carlos Vela and Nicklas Bendtner to be sold, along with midfielder Denilson. Two rather disappointing players, goalkeeper Manuel Almunia and defender Sebastian Squillaci, will be available on free transfers.
A player whose status may also be unclear is Abou Diaby. The 25-year-old box-to-box midfielder has missed a great deal of time due to injury, and may not expect much playing time with the re-emergence of Tomas Rosicky, and the impeding return of Jack Wilshere.
Indeed, the Arsenal midfield may be a little over-crowded. Mikel Arteta and Aaron Ramsey, who have provided solid performances this season, are not expected to leave the organization, and Alex Song has exceeded expectations this season with some excellent assists.
But the loaded midfield hasn't slowed speculation that Wenger is keen on adding other players. Wenger had recently suggested that the club would like to add a star player, though those efforts may have been thwarted by Gotze's signing and the high price for Hazard.
According to Jeremy Wilson of the Telegraph, Wenger has renewed his interest in Yann M'Vila and Lucas Biglia. Both players were linked to the Gunners last summer when Arsenal were in a frenzy to make up for the loss of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri.
M'Vila, 21, who plays for Rennes, can play both as a box-to-box midfielder and a holding midfielder. The French starlet has been on the radar of Real Madrid, as well. He is rated at about £17 million. Wenger reportedly offered £15 million for M'Vila in August.
Wenger has maintained his commitment to Song, but adding M'Vila would allow the manager to use two defensive midfielders. It might be difficult to bring in M'Vila, particularly if there is a bidding war triggered by Real Madrid.
If Wenger can't land M'Vila he could set his sights on adding Biglia. The 26-year-old Argentine reportedly wants out of the Belgian League, He is rated at about £6 million, which fits into Arsenal's price range for his role. Emmanuel Frimpong and Francis Coquelin have both showed promise, but Arsenal will be chasing silverware next season, and that means adding more polished and experienced players.
In December, Biglia's agent told Sky Sports that he could have moved on from Anderlecht in the winter transfer period. Fiorentina, AC Milan, and Manchester United had been linked to Biglia, as well.
Then there's Luis Muriel. The 20-year-old Colombian forward, who is reportedly loaded with potential, is being tracked by Arsenal, according to Daily Mail.
Muriel scored nine goals for Deportivo Cali, one of the elite clubs in Colombia, before he joined Udinese in 2010. The 5'10 forward is currently on loan with Lecce, and has garnered interest from elite Serie A clubs: AC Milan, Juventus, Roma and Napoli. He is expected to command bids of about £10 million.
It also appears likely that Lukas Podolski will be finally be confirmed as the newest addition to the Gunners this week, according to the Telegraph. Podolski's official announcement had been stalled amid reports that he was considering Lazio.
He is expected to join Arsenal at a fee of £10.9 million, with incentives included.
Here is video of Podolski:
Here is video of Vertonghen:
Here is video of M'Vila:
Here is video of Muriel:
Here is video fo Biglia: