Mikel Arteta has emerged as a transfer target for La Liga club Athletic Bilbao, according to recent reports.
Goal claim that the Basque outfit - who battled their way to an impressive fourth placed finish last season - are considering making a move for Arteta and Arsenal teammate Nacho Monreal having been tipped off to their potential availability, with Athletic supposedly holding particular interest in the former due to the sale of Ander Herrera to Manchester United in a £28 million deal in June.
Former Spanish youth international Herrera - who has impressed under Louis van Gaal during the Red Devils' annual pre-season tour of the United States and should be a regular starter at Old Trafford - was a vital figure at San Mames, and his departure has left a void in Ernesto Valverde's midfield that obviously requires attention ahead of the new campaign.
Arteta set to be replaced?
Arteta has proved a mainstay of the Arsenal midfield since joining the Gunners from Premier League rivals Everton in 2011 and made 31 appearances in the top-flight last season as well as helping the club to success in the FA Cup.
While it is clear that the highly-composed and expert penalty-taker is well-respected by manager Arsene Wenger, the persistent rumours concerning Arsenal, William Carvalho and Real Madrid engine Sami Khedira must be difficult to ignore for Arteta.
If indeed the club were to secure such a quality signing, it seems highly unlikely that 32-year-old Arteta - who has just one year left to run on his current deal at the Emirates Stadium - would subsequently be afforded the opportunity to extend his own stay with Arsenal.
As has been observed quite clearly throughout the last few years, Arsenal only tend to offer extensions of one-year to players over the age of 30, something that obviously does not offer a lot by way of long-term stability and it is possible that Arteta himself may be more receptive to a longer deal elsewhere.
It does not appear that Athletic have yet decided if they do indeed wish to proceed with an official offer for Arteta, but, if they do and Arsenal do indeed manage to secure a better replacement, one would imagine that Wenger may be content to sell rather than risk losing the former Real Sociedad man on a free transfer in 2015.
Monreal not needed
While Arteta will perhaps find himself in and out of Wenger's side this season depending on the opposition, any hopes that Monreal may harbour about finally establishing himself as first choice in North London seem remote at best.
Kieran Gibbs - a man who many Arsenal fans believed should have gone to the World Cup with England this summer - has improved massively over recent seasons and appears set to continue as Wenger's undisputed first-choice on the left-hand side of defence.
Indeed, the recent arrival of former Southampton starlet Calum Chambers - a right-back by trade - gives Wenger even more versatile options in defence, with the 19-year-old impressing during his first appearances for the club against Benfica and Monaco at the Emirates Cup competition.
Presumably Monreal's immediate future could also rely heavily upon that of teammate Thomas Vermaelen.
The Arsenal captain - who is also out of contract after the 2014/15 campaign - is reportedly reluctant to enter negotiations over a potential extension amid transfer rumours linking him with both Manchester United and Barcelona and looks very likely to depart prior to September's deadline.
If Vermaelen does leave, then Monreal will remain as the only senior cover to Gibbs.
If Athletic do make acceptable offers for Arteta and Monreal, Arsenal would probably be doing the right thing to let them move on to pastures new.
Both players have prior experience of La Liga, of course, and would presumably be eager for the chance for regular first-team football at a time when it is far from guaranteed with their current employers.
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