Wenger eyes young Real star Morata
Arsène Wenger will reignite his interest in Real Madrid striker Alvaro Morata this summer.
The Arsenal manager inquired about signing Morata on loan in January, but Real would not let the 21-year-old go.
Morata is understood to be keen on a permanent switch to the Emirates at the end of the season and Wenger is ready to make a move.
The Spaniard has made 39 appearances for Real, scoring five goals, and has become frustrated by a lack of opportunities at the Bernabeu. Morata's record for Spain's U-21s is far more impressive, having netted 12 times in just 11 games. Wenger is well aware of the fact Morata fancies a move and Real will demand around £15m for the player.
Real are expected to sign a big-name striker in the summer, but could still attempt to secure a buy-back clause in any deal for Morata. Wenger's interest in Morata will not end his pursuit of Schalke star Julian Draxler, as the Frenchman wants to sign at least two forwards in the summer. Nicklas Bendtner is expected to finally quit the Emirates at the end of the season, leaving Wenger two striker spots to fill.
Arsenal are confident of adding Santi Cazorla to a list of players who will sign new contracts for the club.
Cazorla is set to join Per Mertesacker and Tomas Rosicky in agreeing a new deal to stay at the Emirates. The midfielder's contract expires in 2016, but Arsenal are prepared to extend that by a further year and increase his wages to £80,000 a week. But Bacary Sagna's future remains in doubt and Inter Milan have stepped up their interest in signing the right-back.
Frenchman Sagna is out of contract at the end of the season and is yet to agree a new deal. He wants a three-year, £100,000-a-week contract, while Arsenal have so far offered a two-year extension on roughly the same £70,000-a-week terms he is currently on.
French and Turkish clubs are willing to hand 31-year-old Sagna a four-year contract, and Inter have now made their interest clear. The second-placed Gunners begin another crucial month in their title challenge today, travelling to Stoke City knowing they can temporarily move five points ahead of Manchester City in third with victory.
Despite predictions of a stutter, Arsenal are still in touch at the top and Wenger predicted that, if they can maintain their position through some difficult fixtures, they can challenge.
"March is the month," said Wenger ahead of today's game. "We play Spurs, City, Chelsea, Bayern Munich and Everton in the Cup. We have a great opportunity to show that we are strong, which is what I think. At the end of March we will know much more."
Arsenal will welcome back Mesut Özil after resting their record signing following a drop in form and confidence. Wenger is confident his team can put all negative thoughts of the Britannia Stadium out of their mind for today's game. "We have some bad memories, as well we have some good memories," he said. "It is a stadium where, first of all, the pitch is narrow and a bit more difficult to play. As well it is more open to the wind, but at the end of the day we have shown recently it is down to the performance. If we perform on Saturday, (the rest) is only feelings."
Thomas Vermaelen may return at left-back. (© Daily Telegraph, London)
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