Arsenal have leapt ahead of Manchester United in the race to sign Kostas Manolas, and are now in talks with Olympiacos over a proposed £8 million deal for his signature.
Reports in Goal today outline the idea that Arsene Wenger has identified the Greece international as an replacement for Thomas Vermaelen when it comes to offering depth in the centre-back berth, and is keen to wrap up a deal quickly as he’s concerned over the fitness of Laurent Koscielny.
The 23-year-old Super League star has garnered plenty of suitors over the past year, but it’s now United and Arsenal who are said to be the frontrunners for his services, given their respective shortcomings in defence. Van Gaal knows he can’t rely solely on the trio of Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans, whilst Wenger is in danger of being caught short as he only has Per Mertesacker, youngster Calum Chambers and Koscielny to pick from, the latter of whom is struggling with an Achilles complaint.
Yet it seems that Wenger has made the first move, and the Frenchman is desperate to wrap up a deal as soon as possible with the new Premier League season set to kick off on Saturday. Mertesacker only returned from his extended holiday yesterday, following Germany’s World Cup success, and so Chambers is his only notable option ahead of the opening fixture against Crystal Palace.
It’s said that the Gunners have been told Manolas will cost them £8 million to sign, which Wenger will see as a bargain given his current conundrum. That being said the Frenchman will still have to convince the youngster to make the decision to abandon his current club, which may not be as easy at it seems at first glance.
First and foremost there’s United’s interest to compete with, with Van Gaal known to be keeping tabs on the player as he looks to fill the large hole left by the departures of both Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand. The Red Devils have a number of centre-backs on their books but none of them are proven at the highest level and, though Manolas isn’t necessarily more experienced than the likes of Jones and Evans, he would provide another reputable option.
Then there’s the second, and perhaps more problematic issue, which could stand in the way of Arsenal’s negotiations; Manolas’ game-time.
The Greek starlet has grown accustomed to being a first-team regular for both club and country but were Wenger to bring him in he would surely struggle, just as the recently departed Vermaelen did, to break up the partnership of Mertesacker and Koscielny.