Arsenal are considering a January bid for alleged Manchester United target Nicolas Otamendi as Arsene Wenger looks to strengthen his backline with the addition of the versatile Valencia defender.
The Daily Mirror reports that Gunners scouts have been keeping tabs on the 26-year-old for a number of months, but it's the big-money fee that the Spanish club are demanding that has so far prevented the north Londoners from firming up their interest.
Capable of playing at right-back and in central defence, Otamendi could prove to be a useful acquisition for an Arsenal side that has been short on numbers in that department for much of the season.
Thoams Vermaelen's summer departure to Barcelona left Wenger light on centre-back options, and after failing to bring in a replacement during the previous transfer window he was forced to deploy certain players out of position during an injury crisis that ravaged the squad in the early part of 2014/15.
Right-back Calum Chambers - a £16 million signing from Southampton - has been asked not only to play more football than he perhaps initially expected, but was also thrown in at the deep end when sent out to play in the middle of a makeshift back four when Laurent Koscielny was sidelined.
Nacho Monreal, a natural full-back on the opposite flank has also been pushed inside on occasions, and despite Wenger's insistence that the Spaniard is quite capable of filling in at centre-half he's rarely looked very comfortable.
Otamendi's arrival this month would provide Arsenal with a significant boost for the second half of the campaign, particularly after the recent injury suffered to first-choice right-back Mathieu Debuchy.
The France international dislocated his shoulder in the recent 3-0 victory over Stoke City at the Emirates Stadium, and academy product Hector Bellerin has been asked to deputise in his absence.
Bellerin impressed during yesterday's surprise 2-0 win at reigning Premier League champions Manchester City, but there is still some doubts about his long-term capability. Signing the relatively more experienced Argentina international would help allay those fears.
Manchester United could still challenge Arsenal for Otamendi's signature, particularly as Louis van Gaal is on the lookout for defensive reinforcements at Old Trafford.
With doubts surrounding the long-term future of Rafael, the South American could potentially replace the Brazilian at the Theatre of Dreams, whilst also providing additional cover for the Red Devils in a more central area, especially in light of the Dutch coach's preference to play a 3-5-2 formation.
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