Monday 23 April 2018

Arsene Wenger will have to cough up £25m to bring Jonny Evans to Arsenal

Jonny Evans joined West Brom from Manchester United in 2015 Picture: PA
Jonny Evans joined West Brom from Manchester United in 2015 Picture: PA

Jeremy Wilson

Arsenal's centre-back search is being met by closed doors and spiralling prices at home as well as across Europe, with West Brom unwilling to even consider selling Jonny Evans for less than £25 million.

Southampton are also adamant that their captain, José Fonte, will not leave this summer and has the choice now between accepting the offer of an improved contract or remaining on his current wages for a deal that does not expire until 2018.

Arsenal are still hoping to complete a deal for Valencia's Shkodran Mustafi but, amid a stand-off over the fee, are considering other experienced Premier League options including Evans and Fonte.

West Brom, however, are focused on adding players and are understood to value Evans at around £30 million. They are close to agreeing a loan for Jay Rodriguez, who Southampton want playing more regularly, but the deal remains dependent on their new manager, Claude Puel, adding a replacement striker. Utrecht's Sébastien Haller is among the options.

Manchester United are also interested in Fonte but Southampton have shown over recent seasons that their strategy is to complete planned player sales early in the summer and that a point is reached at which they will not consider losing certain key players.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said last week that the age of a player such as Fonte, who is 32, would not necessarily preclude a deal but he would be highly unlikely to make a big offer for someone with no future sell-on value.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. Photo: Reuters
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. Photo: Reuters

Arsenal have also not given up on Mustafi but Valencia are holding out for considerably more than the £25 million fee that was initially discussed.

Wenger is still confident that he will add a centre-back this summer but his hopes of signing France striker Alexandre Lacazette are fading. Lyon would now want around £60 million and their stance will only have been reinforced by how Lacazette has started the season in France's Ligue 1 with five goals in two games.

Arsenal's mistake, it appears, was in pursuing Jamie Vardy before Euro 2016 at a period in the transfer window when Lacazette might well have been available for much closer to the £32.5 million fee that they initially offered.

Vardy eventually turned them down and, by the time their attention switched to Lacazette, the transfer market had significantly changed.

Huge deals elsewhere have prompted an associated inflation in asking prices that is causing even Chelsea to reconsider some of their targets.

Both Lacazette and Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas now appear certain that there will not be a dramatic change in the final days of the window. “Lacazette will stay with us,” said Aulas.

Lacazette himself was also quoted as saying that he was only focused on passing 30 goals for the season with Lyon. “There will be no departure – everything is going well here,” he said.

Wenger has started with Alexis Sánchez as his main striker in the two Premier League matches so far this season but Olivier Giroud is now expected to come into the team against Watford on Saturday.

Giroud was among the substitutes in Saturday’s goalless draw against Leicester City and, although Wenger has admitted that the France striker will not be at full fitness for another two weeks, he has been missed.

“He needed a breather after the European Championship and I have enough experience to know that four weeks (holiday) is short,” said Wenger. “They were under big pressure France at home but (Laurent) Koscielny has shown that he is focused and ready and did well.”

Elsewhere, the Football Association will look into the homophobic tweets Burnley striker Andre Gray posted four years ago after they were shared across social media on the weekend he scored his first Premier League goal.

It is understood the governing body are investigating the tweets which came from the 25-year-old’s official account when he was still a non-league player.

Gray, who scored for the Clarets in a 2-0 victory over Liverpool, apologised in a statement on Saturday and asked for forgiveness. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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