By Wayne Veysey
Arsenal are in advanced talks to sign Gary Cahill and Christopher Samba as Arsene Wenger attempts to plug the holes in his leaky defence.
The manager has identified central defence as his team’s main weak point and accepts that Premier League nous is required to give his side greater steel next season.
After losing out on Samba’s former Blackburn Rovers team-mate Phil Jones, Wenger is keeping his options open by moving for two centre-halves simultaneously. Sources have indicated that he is even prepared to buy both players in this window in a shock double swoop that could cost £24 million.
Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis had a private lunch with his Bolton Wanderers counterpart, chairman Phil Gartside, in Doncaster last Thursday during the two-day Premier League AGM and it is understood they held ‘amicable’ discussions about Cahill moving to Emirates Stadium.
Bolton revealed in their last set of financial accounts they have debts of £93m and Gartside is ready to cash in on Cahill, who has a £17m release clause in his contract.
Arsenal are reluctant to smash their transfer record to land the England international but know that Manchester City and Chelsea are also monitoring developments. Nevertheless, Wenger is confident he will not have to pay more than £15m to get Cahill given Bolton’s financial problems and the player’s willingness to move to a Champions League club.
Rover and out | Arsenal have made another move for January target Christopher SambaArsenal are also in negotiations to sign Samba from Blackburn, who want £12m for their 27-year-old club captain. The Gunners are confident a deal can be agreed for between £8.5m and £9m after they came close to signing the Congolese defender in the January window.
Targeting two similar players at the same time is not an unusual tactic, given the possibility that either deal could fall through. Arsenal did the same when they signed Samir Nasri from Marseille in 2008, but had also lined up a deal for Lyon’s Hatem Ben Arfa. Nasri’s French colleague eventually moved to Marseille 10 days before Nasri’s move to London was completed.
Arsenal sources say there is a possibility that Wenger could sign Cahill and Samba, which would mean the club would have six senior central defenders in total, although the Gunners are willing to listen to offers for Sebastien Squillaci.
It is has been mooted that first-choice centre-half Thomas Vermaelen could be used regularly at left-back next season, especially if Gael Clichy leaves the club, as he is expected to do. Vermaelen often filled in on the left side of defence at former club Ajax before his move to Arsenal two summers ago.
Wenger has given up on the chance of signing highly rated French defender Mamadou Sakho, who is set to stay at Paris Saint-Germain for another year.