Arsenal are keen to replace Manchester United target Thomas Vermaelen with Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic - and could make an offer of around £7 million for the Serbia international. Arsene Wenger is a fan of the 30-year-old, who has been a key player at Stamford Bridge since joining the Blues from Lokomotiv Moscow in 2008.
The Metro cite the Serbian media as reporting the news, which will come as a surprise to supporters of both Arsenal and Chelsea. But it’s a transfer that makes sense for Wenger, who knows Ivanovic is capable of playing either at centre-back or right-back.
The Gunners’ boss needs a replacement not only for central defender Vermaelen, but also right-back Bacary Sagna, who has joined Manchester City on a free transfer. Ivanovic has often been deployed in the right-sided full-back position during his time at Stamford Bridge, although his first-team opportunities could be limited next season if he stays with the west London outfit.
Cesar Azpilicueta to replace Ivanovic?
The reason Ivanovic could find himself reduced to a peripheral role in the Chelsea team next term is partly because of Atletico Madrid left-back Filipe Luis, who looks set to complete a move to Stamford Bridge within the next few weeks. Cesar Azpilicueta spent most of last season playing at left-back after displacing Ashley Cole in the starting line-up, but the Spain international is a right-back by trade.
Jose Mourinho’s admiration for Azpilicueta is no secret. The Blues boss claimed, back in February, that a team of Azpilicuetas would win the Champions League. Subsequently, it seems likely that Mourinho will use the Spaniard is his natural position next season, leaving Ivanovic on the substitutes’ bench.
Fierce competition at centre-back
Mourinho already has plenty of options at centre-back, so the probability of Ivanovic becoming one of Chelsea’s new first-choice central defenders appears slim. Gary Cahill will continue alongside John Terry, who signed a one-year contract extension earlier this year, while the hugely-promising French defender Kurt Zouma will also expect to get minutes in his debut season at Stamford Bridge.
Although Ivanovic has enjoyed success at Chelsea - winning three FA Cups, a Premier League title, the Europa League and a Champions League winners’ medal - he may agree to make the move to north London in the knowledge that he may struggle to hold down a regular first-team place under Mourinho next season.
Ivanovic: Still one of the Premier League’s best right-backs
Arsenal hope £7 million will be enough to convince Chelsea into selling Ivanovic. That fee would be a comparative bargain for a player who has been, alongside Manchester City’s Pablo Zabaleta, arguably the best right-back in the Premier League over the past two seasons.
But would Arsenal fans prefer to secure the services of Toulouse right-back Serge Aurier instead? The Ivory Coast international is nine years younger than Ivanovic and has shown at the World Cup finals in Brazil exactly why Arsenal are reportedly keen to sign him.
Arsenal fans: watch Branislav Ivanovic in action by clicking play on the video below.