TIDYING UP ALL THE LOOSE STORIES IN FOOTBALL THIS WEEK
By Wayne Veysey | Chief Correspondent
ARSENAL READY TO SPEND €62M ON NEW TALENT
Talk of Arsenal and transfer war chests is treated with scepticism by fans long used to seeing the club pay more attention to strengthening their balance sheet than their squad.
But The Sweeper understands that Arsene Wenger will finally dip into the vast kitty that has largely remained untouched for five windows while new signings have been funded by the sale of prize assets.
There is up to €75 million from existing cash resources available for the manager to use in January, as well as an additional €37m in the summer, when the club will receive the first instalment of the newly agreed €186m sponsorship deal with Emirates that runs from 2014.
It is believed that Wenger is so concerned at the possibility that Arsenal will not secure a top-four Premier League finish that he will sanction a major overhaul of the squad.
The manager has accepted that the current squad is not strong enough to guarantee one of the Champions League places and he will approve a series of bids which could result in an unprecedented €62m of new talent arriving at the club.
The Gunners are looking to reinforce the goalkeeping, defensive midfield, striker and attacking midfield positions and have already made moves to bring in some of their top targets, who include Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha, Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina and Atletico Madrid’s Adrian Lopez. Thierry Henry has also agreed to rejoin Arsenal for a third spell, on loan from New York Red Bulls.
Several fringe squad players are up for sale, including Andrey Arshavin, Marouane Chamakh, Sebastien Squillaci, Lukas Fabianski and, even Emmanuel Frimpong, which could reduce Arsenal’s expenditure.
Nevertheless, the Emirates Stadium promises to be a hive of transfer activity and, for once, Arsenal will be net buyers.
WENGER FINALLY WRITES OFF DIABY
Arsene Wenger’s loyalty to players who spend more time in the physio’s room than on the pitch is a source of frustration for many supporters.
But The Sweeper has learned that Arsenal manager has finally given up hope of injury-prone Abou Diaby anchoring the midfield on a regular basis.
Despite losing Alex Song to Barcelona, Wenger held back from buying a proven defensive midfielder in the summer, predominantly because of his faith in the power and class of his fellow Frenchman.
Diaby began the season in the team, and in impressive form, but he broke down with a thigh injury during Arsenal’s defeat to Chelsea on September 29 and has not featured since.
It is believed that the Frenchman does not figure highly in Wenger’s plans for next year because of his concern that the midfielder no longer trusts his body.
The 26-year-old has a terrible injury record that can be traced back to the horrendous Dan Smith tackle that fractured and dislocated his ankle at Sunderland in May 2006.
Wenger has now given up hope that Diaby will ever fulfil his promise and has decided the time has come to replace him.
As revealed by Goal.com last Saturday, the Arsenal boss has identified West Ham powerhouse Mohamed Diame as a realistic central midfield target in January.
It is not yet known what effect the hamstring tear Diame sustained against Liverpool on Sunday – which Sam Allardyce predicted could keep him out for between eight and 12 weeks – will have on Arsenal’s pursuit but the Senegal international’s Premier League experience, form and availability has propelled him to top of Wenger’s wish list.
West Ham chairman David Gold admitted last week that Diame has a release clause in his contract that can be triggered in January.
NIKE STILL IN RUNNING FOR NEW KIT DEAL
Arsenal have been strongly linked with an imminent switch from Nike to rival kit supplier Adidas.
But The Sweeper understands that the American sports giant is still in the running to continue their association with the north Londoners, which is due to end in 2014.
A possible extension is linked to Manchester United, the biggest club in a Nike UK portfolio that also includes Manchester City.
February heralds the start of an exclusive six-month negotiating period with United over Nike’s current €376million kit supply deal.
Should Nike not offer a deal that satisfies the Premier League’s biggest-earning club, the sportswear company will turn to Arsenal as senior officials vow that they can lose one but not both of the two biggest shirt sellers in their UK portfolio.
Arsenal’s new kit deal could be worth €31m-a-year, more than three times that of their current agreement with Nike.
But it is likely to be comfortably trumped by United’s new tie-up, with the commercially aggressive Glazer regime confident they can negotiate a record-breaking deal.
ARSENAL GO WEAK AT KNEES FOR BA
Demba Ba figures high on an Arsenal January centre-forward shortlist that is headed by long-term target Adrian Lopez.
But the club’s big reservation surrounding the purchase of the Newcastle United striker is the state of his knees.
A €9.3m release clause in Ba’s Newcastle contract makes him an attractive window target for a number of Premier League clubs on the back of a return of 10 goals this season, which places him equal third in the Premier League scoring charts.
However, the Gunners are concerned about the fitness of the 27-year-old, who failed a medical at Stoke in January 2011 before securing a move to Newcastle the following summer after the north-east club opted to overlook his medical issues.