Sport Soccer

Thursday 18 January 2018

Wenger still keen to snap up Madrid hitman Morata

Arsenal have been monitoring Real Madrid striker Alvaro Morata for some time
Arsenal have been monitoring Real Madrid striker Alvaro Morata for some time

Jeremy Wilson

Arsenal have not completely given up hope of signing Alvaro Morata next month despite Real Madrid insisting there will be no mid-season departures.

Both Morata and Karim Benzema have figured on Arsene Wenger's list of striker targets but Real manager Carlo Ancelotti does not want to lose either player in January.

Morata, a Spain U-21 international, had been seen as more attainable due to his lack of regular first-team football but Real are saying that no players will leave as they attempt to close a five-point gap on Barcelona in La Liga.

The situation is only likely to change at the end of the season if they can sign a new striker of their own, with Luis Suarez still an option -- despite his new contract -- if Liverpool again fail to qualify for the Champions League.

Arsenal are also interested in Diego Costa but Atletico Madrid want to wait until the end of the season before making any decisions, particularly as they currently only trail Barcelona on goal difference in La Liga and are preparing to face AC Milan in the last 16 of the Champions League.

The situation could be forced if Costa's release clause -- understood to be around £32m -- was triggered but Arsenal would be reluctant to stretch to that figure and Costa himself is still keen to force his way into Spain's World Cup squad. Costa has been regularly scouted by Arsenal so far this season in scoring 23 goals in only 23 games for Atletico.

Should Arsenal fail to add a striker next month, Wenger will turn down offers for Nicklas Bendtner and also explore the possibility of Lukas Podolski playing more centrally as an additional option to Olivier Giroud.

With Podolski now back following injury, Arsenal's midfield could also be boosted later this week by the return of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain although they will be without Aaron Ramsey for at least their next two matches. Ramsey is continuing to be assessed after suffering a thigh injury against West Ham on St Stephen's Day.

Mesut Ozil's shoulder injury is not regarded as anything too severe but he will also miss tomorrow's Premier League match against Cardiff City and then the FA Cup third round derby against Tottenham on Saturday.

Wenger has been wanting to rest key players for several weeks and Giroud is also expected to be replaced by Bendtner for one of the next two matches.

Arsenal top the league going into the new year and, according to Mathieu Flamini, the club have discovered the fighting spirit they need to secure the club's first league title in a decade.

"People have criticised Arsenal in the past because they couldn't cope with the physical side of the game," said Flamini. "What you need in any Arsenal side is the fighting spirit, but you can see that we have it and that's great for us because if you want to win titles and cups, you have to fight for it, especially in this league because it is the hardest league.

"It's such a tough league this season because so many teams are competing for the title. There is so much quality spread across the top teams in the English league, but Arsenal have a lot of quality too and more importantly, we have the team spirit, and that could make all the difference." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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