Arsenal are growing increasingly confident of signing Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan this month with both players agreeing personal terms with the club, Goal understands.
Arsene Wenger is looking to soften the blow of losing Alexis Sanchez to Manchester United by bringing in what he sees as two world class attacking players and talks with Mkhitaryan’s agent Mino Raiola have finally seen a breakthrough after Arsenal agreed a healthy financial package to make the Armenian one of the club’s highest paid players.
The transfer would have to have been completed by Friday 12pm GMT in order for the 28-year-old to be available for Saturday’s league match away to Burnley, which did not happen.
The deal for Mkhitaryan will see Sanchez go the other way and become one of the Premier League’s highest paid players with an eye-watering £14m-a-year contract, while his agent Fernando Felicevich is expected to receive a fee in excess of £10m for facilitating the deal. Felicevich previously had a gentleman's agreement in place with Manchester City for a January transfer but United swooped in last week after offering improved financial terms.
Wenger remains a long-term admirer of former Borussia Dortmund star Mkhitaryan and tried to sign him before he joined Manchester United in the summer of 2016.
The 28-year-old, who fell out of favour under Jose Mourinho at United, speaks six languages, has a diploma from the Institute of Physical Culture in Armenia and studied economics at the St Petersburg Institute.
Arsenal's new head of recruitment Sven Mislintat, who arrived from Dortmund in November, has played an integral part in the Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan transfers and has referenced his experience spent working with them at Westfalenstadion as reason to pursue both players in the January transfer window.
While talks continue over extending Mesut Ozil and Jack Wilshere's contracts, both signings are seen as a sign of the club's ambition to take Arsenal to the next level, with further playing staff additions set to happen this summer.
Aubameyang, who is valued at £55m by Dortmund, was left out of the BVB squad for the second week running and won’t be involved in Friday’s match against Hertha Berlin , with sporting director Michael Zorc questioning the striker's mentality. Wenger was lambasted by Zorc after the Frenchman suggested the Gabon international would be a good fit at Emirates Stadium during his press conference on Thursday.
“Auba trains in Dortmund," Zorc told reporters. "We have the impression that Aubameyang is not 100 per cent mentally focused. It's a difficult situation."
Zorc described Wenger’s comments as “disrespectful” and confirmed that the 28-year-old would not be part of Dortmund’s squad against Hertha . Interest from Chinese club Guangzhou Evergrande is also at an advanced stage, although Goal understands that Arsenal are the favoured destination of the striker, who has 13 goals in 15 appearances this season.
Olivier Giroud, who is still a week from returning to full fitness following a hamstring injury, has been mooted as a potential makeweight in the deal to sign Aubameyang. The Frenchman almost joined Dortmund in the summer when they were looking for potential Aubameyang replacements but a deal did not come to fruition.
However, with the World Cup on the horizon this summer Giroud is keen on leaving Arsenal in search of regular playing time. His representative remained coy when asked about the rumours linking his client with a move to Germany.
"Today it is just rumours but tomorrow it could become a reality. Maybe,” Michael Manuello told the Guardian .
As Goal revealed on Tuesday , Jonny Evans remains a target for the Gunners, who are still in the market for a centre back with Premier League pedigree due to Laurent Koscielny’s chronic Achilles problems and Per Mertesacker’s impending retirement.
West Brom boss Alan Pardew revealed on Thursday that the club had still not received any formal offers for the Northern Ireland defender but it’s understood that Arsenal will switch their focus to bolstering their defence once they get the Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan deals over the line.
Evans' preference is to stay in the north west of England for family reasons but he has refused to rule out a possible move to London knowing that it would be his final 'big' transfer in English football.
Goal revealed at the start of the month that Wenger had planned a firesale over the next six months , with Alexis, Theo Walcott, Francis Coquelin, Mathieu Debuchy and Giroud among those heading for the exit door in a bid to free up space for new first-team additions.