ARSENAL will make a formal offer to Sunderland to sign their goalkeeper Simon Mignolet at the end of the season.
Arsène Wenger, the Arsenal manager, has had the player watched repeatedly by his scouts and has made checks about the character of the 25-year-old Belgian.
Wenger is expected to restore Wojciech Szczesny to the Arsenal starting XI for tonight’s Premier League match with Everton because of injury to Lukasz Fabianski. The 22-year-old Szczesny had been left out since the Champions League tie with Bayern Munich, and his situation was not helped by comments his father made about his son’s treatment under Wenger.
However, the return to first-team football at the Emirates could be short-lived for Szczesny. Wenger wants to sign Mignolet and install him as his No 1 as he looks to rebuild his squad in the summer. He may have to be prepared to pay up to £10m for Mignolet, who has caught the attention of the leading sides after an excellent season.
Sunderland are not keen to sell Mignolet, who was signed by Steve Bruce almost three years ago. He arrived for just £2m from Sint-Truiden in Belgium. Bruce had fought off competition from PSV Eindhoven and FC Twente to sign the player. He was used more than expected in his first season in the North-east, as a result of injury to the then first-choice goalkeeper Craig Gordon, and eventually ousted the Scot and similarly held off competition from the Irish goalkeeper Keiren Westwood the following season.
This has been Mignolet’s standout campaign, keeping 10 clean sheets in a Sunderland side fighting relegation. He won the North-east football writers’ player of the year and only Joe Hart, Pepe Reina and Petr Cech have kept more clean sheets in the top flight this season. He has also made more saves than any other Premier League keeper in the current campaign.
Wenger has struggled to find a commanding goalkeeper since Jens Lehmann initially left in 2008. Manuel Almunia and Fabianski have played more than 200 games for the club without convincing. Szczesny, who spent a season on loan at Brentford in 2009-10, was supposed to be the commanding keeper that Arsenal needed to usher in a new era at the club, but it has not happened for the Pole.
That has led Wenger’s scouting team to search for a reliable, long-term replacement who would fit in at Arsenal. Mignolet, a thorough trainer and reliable character, has almost three years’ experience in the English Premier League.
His agent recently admitted he would need to move to a bigger club to dislodge Atletico Madrid’s Thibaut Courtois from his position as the No 1 for Belgium. “Our ambition is for Simon to play somewhere that he can engage in competition with Thibaut,” he said. Mignolet and Sunderland distanced themselves from the quotes the following day, but Arsenal’s interest will prove extremely difficult to hold off.
Wenger wants the Swansea captain Ashley Williams and has also targeted the Borussia Dortmund midfielder Mario Götze. However, Götze looks set for a further season in the Bundesliga before possibly moving to Barcelona in 2014.
Martin Hardy, Independent.co.uk