at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
Arsene Wenger has made Manchester City striker Edin Dzeko his top target after being given the green light to go on a January splurge to revive Arsenal’s precarious Champions League qualification hopes.
Given the financial implications of missing out on a top-four finish, genuine fears are emerging within the Gunners hierarchy that this could be the season they drop out of Europe’s elite club competition.
And worries over the squad’s strength in depth, particularly in attacking positions, will see Wenger move in January’s transfer window.
The Frenchman has identified three key areas: a keeper, a wide attacking player and a central striker, with Dzeko the shock contender to become Arsenal’s centre forward. The Bosnian has grown frustrated at his lack of first-team action at the Etihad Stadium and Wenger wants to exploit the uncertainty.
Athletic Bilbao forward Fernando Llorente and Atletico Madrid striker Adrian Lopez are also high on the Frenchman’s hitlist.
Arsenal will also make a £9million offer for Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha. Palace chairman Steve Parish rates the England Under 21 star at £20m — but an offer of around £15m could be enough to prise the 20-year-old away.
Swansea’s Michel Vorm remains a strong contender in the club’s search for a keeper. Arsenal have watched the Dutchman extensively while they will also keep a close eye on Pepe Reina’s situation at Liverpool. Wenger is a huge fan of the Spain squad man and attempted to sign him in 2010.
Wenger wants his new keeper to compete with — and potentially replace — Wojciech Szczesny, not to be second choice.
Arsenal’s goalkeeping problems were clearly illustrated on Saturday, with stand-in Vito Mannone partly at fault for Fulham’s first two goals in the 3-3 draw.
Goals from Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski had seemingly set up a confidence-boosting win. But three additions to an expanding catalogue of defensive disasters saw Arsenal squander the advantage.
Dimitar Berbatov was inexplicably left unmarked in the six-yard box to nod home Bryan Ruiz’s corner before Mannone somehow failed to deal with Alex Kacaniklic’s header as Fulham pulled level.
Arsenal’s defensive frailties were exposed yet again when Mikel Arteta was caught on the edge of his own box. Ruiz robbed the Spaniard who then fouled him for the visitors’ penalty. Berbatov converted.
Giroud rescued Arsenal with an equaliser before Arteta blew the chance to win it when he missed a controversial injury-time penalty.
‘It is a concern, because we looked quite solid defensively until now, and against Fulham we looked very fragile,’ admitted Wenger.
‘But we have no time to train on it, because the players go away on international duty and when you play every three days you cannot practise too much.
‘But it’s same for all the teams. I’ve been in the Champions League for 15 years now and we have to do that every year for periods.
‘If you play in the League Cup as well, you never have a complete week to prepare for the next game. But it’s part of being at Arsenal.’ – Daily Mail