Arsenal set to win race to sign Benedikt Howedes

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Arsenal are set to finally sign the experienced central defender they so desperately need when the January transfer window opens, after deciding to table a £15 million offer for Schalke 04 captain Benedikt Howedes.

Gunners boss Arsene Wenger reportedly sent scouts to watch Howedes help Schalke to a 4-0 win over Stuttgart last week, which has strengthened Arsenal's belief that the 26-year-old fits the bill as Thomas Vermaelen's belated replacement.

Howedes has also been targeted by both Manchester United and Chelsea thanks to a mix of big-game nous and versatility, but according to the Daily Star its Arsenal now in the driving seat to sign their fourth World Cup winner in 2015.

Schalke progress won't stop sale

Arsenal had feared that Schalke's qualification for the Champions League knockout stages could scupper a deal, but in truth the Bundesliga side have very little chance of further progress after drawing holders Real Madrid in the last 16 earlier today.

That disappointment could well help Schalke make up their minds to sell Howedes if they receive an offer in the region of £15m in January, particularly as he is fast approaching the final two years of his contract with Roberto Di Matteo's side.

Left-back cover could also prove valuable

Howedes is primarily a centre-back but could also definitely be used as a safe option at left-back, after far exceeding expectations in that position for Germany at the World Cup.

Germany boss Joachim Low ended up using Howedes in that surprise role for the vast majority of the tournament and it worked a treat, something for Wenger to bear in mind when you consider how often Kieran Gibbs is forced to miss out with persistent injury niggles.

There's no question that Wenger left Arsenal too thin in defence after selling Vermaelen in the summer, but he's finally close to doing something about it and Howedes is exactly the kind of proven performer they need to push their Premier League campaign forward during the second half of the season.

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