The Gunners are increasingly confident of signing the Swansea City centre-back this summer as they prepare a summer bid of around £8m, having held initial discussions in AprilEXCLUSIVE
By Wayne Veysey | Chief Correspondent
Arsenal are closing in on the signing of Ashley Williams after holding a second round of talks with the player’s representatives, Goal.com can reveal.
Williams’ camp have indicated that the Swansea City defender is keen to move to the Emirates Stadium this summer.
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Arsenal will now put together a package to tempt the player to north London, before preparing a bid to prise him from Swansea.
The Gunners value Williams at £8million, although the Welsh club are likely to hold out for a fee closer to £12m.
Arsenal are in pole position to capture the centre-back, with Liverpool's owners harbouring increasing doubts about paying significant money for a player who turns 29 in August.
Arsene 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 has been found wanting against the leading clubs this season.
The 28-year-old 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.
The Londoners are also keeping close tabs on highly-rated Marseille centre-back Nicolas N'Koulou, 23, who has admitted he could leave the French club this summer.
Arsenal are preparing for an overhaul of their back line this summer, with a new goalkeeper, right-back and leader of the central defence their main priorities.
As revealed by Goal.com, Arsenal have already made an enquiry to sign Sochaux right-back Sebastien Corchia and they have now begun formalising their central defensive plans.
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.
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But the hand of Williams' former manager Brendan Rodgers could be forced by the Anfield club's transfer committee, which has the final say on recruitment decisions.
Liverpool could offer the Swansea man a nailed-on first-team spot, although Arsenal are increasingly likely to be able to provide the carrot of Champions League football.
The Gunners made a deadline-day bid for Athletic Bilbao’s Fernando Amorebieta in January but the Venezuelan, 28, had dropped off the radar even before agreeing to sign for Fulham.
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 but could be willing to listen to offers for Vermaelen.
Runaway Spanish league leaders Barca are in the market for a left-sided centre-back and the Arsenal club captain is believed to be one of those on their shortlist.
Vermaelen, who is rated in the £15m bracket, was axed from the Arsenal team in March following a series of mixed displays and has only started a single match in the intervening period, which was a consequence of a suspension incurred by Mertesacker.