Arsene Wenger has prioritised a move for the 28-year-old as the Gunners look to tie up the deal that will cost the club between £8 million and £10mEXCLUSIVE
By Wayne Veysey | Chief correspondent
Ashley Williams has agreed terms to join Arsenal from Swansea City this summer, Goal can reveal.
Arsene Wenger has prioritised signing the central defender and is hopeful that an offer between £8 million and £10m can close the deal after reaching a basic agreement with the player.
|ARSENAL'S PRIORITY TARGET
|WILLIAMS' 2012-13 SEASON
AVERAGE CLEARANCES PER GAME
BLOCKED SHOTS PER GAME
It is understood that Arsenal have agreed a three-year contract with Williams' camp that is worth £60,000-a-week.
Preliminary negotiations have taken place between Arsenal and Swansea on a fee for the Wales captain, with the Londoners confident of completing the signing in the next two weeks.
As revealed by Goal, Arsenal stepped up their interest in Williams in April and moved in to pole position to capture him ahead of Liverpool after holding two rounds of talks with the player’s representatives.
The 28-year-old’s desire to move to an elite club had not been dependent upon the guarantee of Champions League football, which Arsene Wenger’s team secured on the final day of the season.
The Gunners are poised to start the bidding at around the £8m mark and, although Swansea are likely to hold out for a fee closer to £12m, it is not expected that the final cost will be much beyond £10m.
Wenger is a big admirer of Williams, who he believes has the calibre and battle-hardened Premier League experience to beef up a defence that had been found wanting at times last season.
He is expected to be a like-for-like replacement for skipper Thomas Vermaelen, who is attracting strong interest from Barcelona despite losing his place in the Arsenal team.
Arsenal will listen to offers for Vermaelen from the Continent, but are adamant that he will not be sold to a Premier League rival.
Arsenal are preparing for an overhaul of their back line this summer, with a new goalkeeper, right-back and central defensive leader their main priorities. As revealed by Goal, Arsenal have already made an enquiry to sign Sochaux right-back Sebastien Corchia.
Williams has played the best football of his career over the last two seasons, playing an instrumental role in both establishing Swansea as a Premier League club and in their Capital One Cup triumph this season.
Liverpool were the early favourites to land Williams as they attempt to reinforce a defence that is likely to be deprived of Martin Skrtel and Sebastian Coates this summer, as well as the retired Jamie Carragher.
But the hand of Williams' former manager Brendan Rodgers has partly been forced by the Anfield club's transfer committee, which has the final say on recruitment decisions.
Arsenal, who will allow veteran Sebastien Squillaci to leave on a free at the end of the season, have no plans to sell Per Mertesacker or Laurent Koscielny, who has been the subject of an enquiry from Bayern Munich.
Barcelona are in the market for a left-sided centre-back and Arsenal club captain Vermaelen is believed to be one of those on their shortlist.
The Belgian, who is rated in the £15m bracket, was axed from the Arsenal team in March following a series of mixed displays and only started one match in the final two months of the season.