Arsenal’s move for Valencia defender Shkodran Mustafi seems to be progressing nicely, but they appear to be keeping tabs on another La Liga defender. According to French news outlet SFR Sport, Arsene Wenger has enquired about the availability of Barcelona defender Jeremy Mathieu.
Gabriel is set to miss the first six weeks of the season; though some cynical Arsenal followers have suggested this could have been downplayed to strengthen Arsenal’s negotiating position. Mustafi is a well-regarded defender but certainly not the tallest, and with Per Mertesacker out until New Year it could be that Wenger wants to add height to his defensive option.
Mathieu has started 35 league matches in two seasons at the Nou Camp, and at six foot two would give the Gunners some more aerial presence. Like Mertesacker, the Frenchman lacks pace but Arsenal’s best stretches of defending have come with Mertesacker alongside Koscielny, who tends to thrive with a more zonal defender alongside him.
Elsewhere, Ray Parlour has suggested that Diego Simeone would be the ideal replacement for Wenger, should this prove to be his last season. Parlour, who has made more Premier League appearances than any other Arsenal player, said that although Simeone would bring a change in style, the Gunners need a manager of stature.
It would be an odd situation if, after more than 20 years at the helm, Wenger didn’t have a say on who his successor should be and it is hard to imagine him picking Simeone.
There were reports in the Daily Star earlier in the summer that the Arsenal board have earmarked Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe, and although that would bring obvious risks, it sounds much more like an Arsenal appointment.
With Wenger likely to wait until the end of the campaign to make a decision on his future, this story is set to run and run so expect more speculation about potential replacements.
After a few days in which Arsenal seemed to be making their move for Riyad Mahrez, The Guardian report that the Algerian is set to stay at Leicester.
The Foxes’ director of football John Rudkin met with Mahrez’s representatives on Wednesday and reiterated that he would not be allowed to leave with so little time to find a replacement.
Should this be the case, Wenger will surely focus his attention on bringing in another striker rather than trying to add goals from the wide areas.
That said, these things can move so quickly, especially if Mahrez’s really decided to force a move. It would be unwise to write this story off just yet.
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