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The ex-Republic of Ireland international feels the Gunners should look to the Belgian to solve their striking problem, given their top target now looks set to stay at Anfield

EXCLUSIVE
By Liam Twomey

Arsenal should forget about Luis Suarez and break the bank to sign Christian Benteke, according to former Aston Villa forward Tony Cascarino.

Following the Gunners’ 3-0 Champions League qualifying win over Fenerbahce on Wednesday, Arsene Wenger admitted there is “absolutely no chance” of signing the unsettled Uruguayan.

The Frenchman also insisted “the transfer window starts now” for Arsenal, after a summer so far devoid of a high-profile signing, despite public pursuits of Suarez and Gonzalo Higuain.

Cascarino, who also led the line for Chelsea and Marseille during a distinguished playing career, believes Benteke should be at the top of Wenger’s shopping list.

“How no one’s bought him, I don’t know,” he told Goal. “At the end of last season I thought he’d be the hottest-pursued player of the summer. I keep thinking, ‘Am I missing something?’

“Maybe people are worried because he’s only had one year in the Premier League, but you only have to look at him. He drives past centre-backs with his pace.

“The goal he got at Stamford Bridge was fantastic: great touch; great finish. Forget about his pace, his power, his heading ability, that’s what he can do. He slaughtered Liverpool at Anfield last season.

“If I was Arsene Wenger I’d forget about £40 million (€46.5m) for Luis Suarez - I’d bid £40m for Benteke, straight away.”

Benteke signed a new contract which keeps him at Villa Park until 2017 in July, having earlier submitted a transfer request and stated his desire to leave the club.

The 22-year-old believed his stock was high after a debut season which saw him score 19 Premier League goals, but Villa received no offers which met their asking price.

Now, three goals in two games against Arsenal and Chelsea have catapulted Benteke back into the spotlight, and Cascarino believes the Belgian could still become a transfer target.

“It’s fantastic for Villa and their fans that he’s still there, but I bet they can’t wait until September 2,” the former Republic of Ireland international added.

“His form says a lot about him. If a lad has had his head turned, we’ve seen bigger players than him going public about wanting to leave the club.
 
“And if it doesn’t happen, nine times out of 10 you don’t see them for the first three months of the season, because they don’t turn up.

“You’ve got to give credit to the club and to Paul Lambert, but I think Benteke deserves a lot of praise. He’s not turned up and thought, ‘I should be wearing a Chelsea, United or Arsenal shirt.'

“I’m gobsmacked no one’s moved for him yet, and I still think that by the end of the window, someone will come in with a mad offer for him.”

Tony Cascarino is a football columnist for The Times, which will bring digital subscribers every single Premier League goal this season on mobile and online.  Visit www.TheTimes.co.uk/goals for more details

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