Arsenal in pole position to sign Jonny Evans and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for a combined £75m
Arsenal are now in pole position to sign Jonny Evans as well as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for a combined £75 million after Manchester City cooled their interest in the West Bromwich Albion defender and negotiations advanced yesterday with Borussia Dortmund.
Evans had preferred a move to Manchester City but, with the Premier League leaders now reviving their interest in Athletic Bilbao defender Aymeric Laporte, Arsenal are attempting to reach agreement on a fee of around £20m.
West Brom have their own incentive to quickly complete the deal so that they have the funds to strengthen, with Alan Pardew keen to add attacking players this month and interested in Watford’s Troy Deeney.
A delegation of chief executive Ivan Gazidis, head of recruitment Sven Mislintat and lawyer Huss Fahmy are also in Germany attempting to finalise a potential club record deal for Aubameyang. An initial £44m bid was rejected but Arsenal have now indicated that they are prepared to increase their offer to around £50m, although Dortmund still value Aubameyang closer to £60m.
Loaning France striker Olivier Giroud to Dortmund is also being discussed and, with the German club keen to get an immediate replacement as well as a big transfer fee, there is confidence that a compromise will be found.
Transfer negotiator Dick Law was at Arsenal’s training ground on Tuesday and is understood to be working on the Evans deal, with manager Arsène Wenger admitting earlier in the day that Arsenal were trying to sign at least two players.
“You never know how close,” said Wenger. “These are the kind of things that, at the moment, are one of the possible movements. We have other things in mind as well and we have plenty of opportunities in different positions. We are busy on all fronts. Every opportunity we have to strengthen our squad, we’ll take.”
With Alexis Sánchez having completed his move to Manchester United amid a noticeable lack of good wishes from his former team-mates, Arsenal have the chance to begin a new cycle in their League Cup semi-final tonight against Chelsea. Victory would mean a 10th Wembley appearance next month in less than four years but, asked if it would turn the wider mood, Wenger simply gave an incredulous shake of the head. “We have been in a few finals - has it changed your mood?” he asked, rhetorically. “No. I have no illusions at all. The mood is decided by you. Out of 100, even if ten [fans] have a negative mood, the ten get your ear more than the 90.
“You celebrate some teams who have not been in a final for 25 years and yet you kill us even though we have won the FA Cup three times in the last four years. We have to live with that.”
The names of those supposed favoured clubs were not mentioned but, while 25 years might have been something of an exaggeration, we can speculate that Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur were not far from his thinking. Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino are both still waiting for their first trophy in English football and Wenger remains confident that Arsenal can still overhaul a five point Premier League gap to Liverpool in fourth.
Wenger chose to offer only praise for the departing Sánchez, but it was still very noticeable how all the messages of goodwill for Theo Walcott last week on the Twitter accounts of many Arsenal players have not yet been repeated for Sanchez.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan has arrived from Manchester United to replace Sánchez and Wenger specifically stressed yesterday that he could play in a similar central midfield role to Santi Cazorla previously. He also admitted that he had previously met Mkhitaryan and been “close” to a deal before he eventually joined Manchester United in the summer of 2016. Mkhitaryan became peripheral at United under Jose Mourinho but, with Kevin De Bruyne and Mo Salah so excelling this season after a similar experience, Wenger is hopeful. “You are certain in our job of nothing but I believe he has the qualities,” said Wenger. “Our game is based on team attitude and movement and I think he can absorb the quantity of movement in our team.
“Of course you worry about how much it has affected him. What you want in life is a new chance and I’m sure with his quality that he will take it. I see him first in a wide position, but I’m thinking about a possibility to play through the middle.”
Manchester City await in the League Cup final and their search for a centre-back is again focusing on Laporte, who they agreed to sign for £39.6 million in 2016 only for the French centre-half to pull out of a move at the eleventh hour. Laporte, 23, has a €65 million (about £57 million) release clause in his contract and Bilbao, which City are understood to be prepared to meet. Bilbao appear resigned to losing Laporte, who has indicated his willingness to join City and reports in Spain suggest a deal will go through. City are likely to sign two centre-backs this year, with Real Sociedad defender Iñigo Martínez, who has a £28 million release clause, another option.