Exclusive: Arsenal make contact with Lille for Hazard

Arsenal have made contact with Lille regarding the summer transfer of Belgian international Eden Hazard.

A source close to the player revealed to Arseblog News that the Gunners are in discussions with the club regarding a move this summer, however, the talks are at an early stage with more news expected next week.

Negotiations have stalled over the contract of playmaker Samir Nasri while the future of skipper Cesc Fabregas is still uncertain, and Wenger is actively looking to strengthen the Gunner’s squad ahead of the new season.

The source explained that both clubs were in talks over a move although details will remain private, with the Belgian international tipped to replace Nasri at Arsenal following the club’s refusal to break the club’s wage structure to keep the 24-year-old.

Hazard, 20, was a principal protagonist in Lille’s historic Ligue 1 and French Cup Double win last season and has regularly spoken of his preference to move to Arsenal over other rival suitors.

During an Arsenal press conference in January Wenger even responded to speculation when asked by a French reporter if he was aware that it was the Belgian’s “dream” to seal a move to the Emirates.

“It’s a very good question. We follow him. And personally I think he’s a real talent, and he’s good enough to play for Arsenal, yes.” Wenger explained.

Hazard became the youngest player to win the Ligue 1 Player of the Season award last term with Wenger keeping a regular watch over the talented forward. The Frenchman recently sent a scout to monitor his performance in the European Championship qualifier against Turkey last Friday.

Arsenal failed in late Friedel bid

The Daily Mail are reporting that Arsenal failed with a last ditch offer to sign Aston Villa goalkeeper Brad Friedel last week.

The reports indicate that Arsene Wenger was ready to offer the former American international a two-year-deal at the Emirates however the goalkeeper’s move to North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur was already close to completion.

Wenger has now missed out on two potential signings in the past week with Blackburn Rovers’ Phil Jones set to join Manchester United despite having talks with the Gunners boss.

The news that Wenger moved for the 40-year-old suggests that Wojciech Szczesny will face competition for the club’s number 1 jersey, with the Frenchman on the search for a senior stopper.

Currently Szczesny faces competition from out of form Manuel Almunia and fellow Polish international Lukasz Fabianski.

Arsenal refusing to break wage structure for Nasri

The future of Arsenal midfielder Samir Nasri remains heavily in doubt with the Gunners hierarchy refusing to break the club’s wage structure to keep the Frenchman at the club.

Speaking to Arseblog News a source close to the club revealed Nasri has requested wages in excess of £110, 000 with talks officially breaking down between the player and club at the end of April.

With the future of Cesc Fabregas also uncertain the Arsenal board must move quickly to make a decision on presenting a final offer to Nasri, with the source admitting that Wenger has made preparations for life without the 23-year-old while also revealing that Nasri is currently more likely to depart than sign a new deal at the Emirates stadium.

Nasri, a £15.8 million signing from Marseille in the summer of 2008 is about to enter the last 12 months of his current contract, with manager Arsene Wenger admitting at the beginning of the month that the club were at loggerheads with the playmaker over his wage demands.

Following rumoured interest from Manchester United stirred by fellow French international Patrice Evra, Wenger made the following retort on French radio last week:

“One thing’s for sure: we’re not selling him to Manchester United,” Wenger told the French radio station RTL.

“Are we still in discussions with Nasri? Yes, but we are still in disagreement over the financial contract on offer, which we haven’t settled. We are trying to extend his deal.”

Analysis of Arsenal’s finances suggests the Gunners boss has a £35 million budget at his disposal to spend this summer, without player sales, and that includes any wages and contract packages. The board are also eager to offer Robin Van Persie a new deal at the club, with Wenger remaining bullish over the club’s wage structure.

Arsenal had Jones bid accepted

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According to Arsenal blog We are the North Bank, and verified on Twitter by Express journalist Matt Law, Arsenal had a £16m+ bid accepted last night for Blackburn’s Phil Jones.

While many would question if a 19 year old, relatively inexperienced centre-half would have been the answer to Arsenal’s defensive issues, it seems Arsene Wenger was ready to break his transfer record for the England U21 international.

It seems a combination of location and United’s standing in the game sealed the deal for Alex Ferguson. Law said “[Arsenal] were prepared to offer bigger wages than United. Jones chose United because of north-west connection and footballing reasons. Wenger did all he could”.

At the very least it signals that the club are prepared to spend serious money this summer. Jones’ departure from Blackburn will certainly complicate a move for Christopher Samba but Wenger may well now test Bolton’s desire to keep hold of Gary Cahill.

It’s thought the Trotters have put a £17m price tag on his head but with just 12 months of his contract left to run the financial realities of the situation may force their hand should Wenger decide Cahill is a player he wants.

Gervinho gears up for Premier League move

Ivory Coast winger Gervinho has confirmed that he will leave Lille in the coming weeks and has set his heart on playing in England.

The 24-year-old, who has been heavily linked with Arsenal, Newcastle United and Manchester City, looks set to spurn the advances of continental suitors in a bid to fulfil his dream of playing in the Premier League.

Speaking to Skysports.com, Gervinho stated: “My mind is made up, I am leaving.

“I have made my mind up. I will soon meet the club and let them know, but they understand my feelings that I want to prove myself in a top league in Europe.

“My agents are moving things as I want, people know where my future lies, it is in England.”

Gervinho helped Lille to a Ligue 1 and French Cup Double last season, but with only one year left on his contract will likely be allowed to leave the Stade Lille-Metropole for a fee in the region of £10 million.

It remains to be seen which of his proposed English suitors makes the first move with the player’s agent keeping his cards close to his chest when talking to Arseblog News yesterday.

“It is difficult for me to discuss the situation because it is confidential, but it is true that many clubs in England have contacted us concerning the availability of Gervinho,” revealed Seb Boisseau.

“For the moment he wants to think about Arsenal, Manchester City, and other clubs. It is difficult for me to comment, as you have good information and sometimes wrong information, but it is not good for me to comment, or for the clubs, or for Lille.

“For the moment it is confidential, and we will wait until Gervinho makes an agreement with one club.

“I think a decision will be made regarding his future by the end of the week.”

 

Gibbs injury woes continue

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Kieran Gibbs will miss the U21 European Championships in Denmark this summer after picking up an ankle injury in a friendly game against Norway.

England coach Stuart Pearce said “It’s unfortunate for Kieran, but he went for a scan yesterday and is in a medical boot.”

The tournament was a chance for Gibbs to get some much needed playing time under his belt and go some way towards staking a claim for the left-back position at the club.

His 2010-11 campaign, in which he was expected to seriously challenge Gael Clichy, was hampered by a succession of injuries meaning he started just four league games and only featured in seven overall.

It is not yet known how serious the injury is, or if it will affect his pre-season, but the timing could not be worse. With serious doubts over the future of Clichy, Arsene Wenger will be surely be questioning the England international’s ability to fill the gap should his injury woes continue.

Advocaat: Arshavin needs more Arsenal playing time

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Russia boss Dick Advocaat believes that Andrey Arshavin’s form at international level has suffered due to a lack of regular first team opportunities at Arsenal.

Ignoring the fact that the diminutive midfielder made 36 starts and a further 16 appearances from the bench last term, a total unmatched by any other squad member at the Emirates, the Dutch tactician lamented to Russian publication Sport-Express:

“One of his problems is that he plays 20 minutes per game. Arsenal head coach Arsene Wenger uses him as a player who can be fielded in the second half and who can refresh the game.

“Andrey is showing willingness to give the team the best of what he has. I worked with him for over two years at Zenit and I know who he is. A brilliant player.”

Arshavin has been heavily criticised in his homeland for his poor form during his country’s failed attempt to qualify for last summer’s World Cup and for several laboured performances during the current qualification campaign for Euro 2012.

In March the 29-year-old, who is captain of his country, was targeted following an away display in Armenia by former Soviet international Sergei Andreev who suggested:

“Arshavin’s first half was just a catastrophe, I feel he doesn’t want to play football anymore.”

The criticism was backed up by another ex-international, Dmitri Kuznetsov, who complained, “They [Russia] have to play with only 10 men in the team. Arshavin’s performance on Saturday was a parody of football.”

Arsenal fans have also been largely underwhelmed by the Russian’s form over the course of the last 18 months despite the fact that his prowess in the final third has been regularly defended by Arsene Wenger who stressed that the former Zenit St Petersburg man demonstrated an efficiency which was backed up by his assists and goal record.

Aware of the pressures which continue to be heaped on his star man, Advocaat backed Arshavin to return to top form for both club and country while cautiously making clear that he would not receive special treatment if a challenger for his position did come to the fore.

“If you ask overseas, what players people know from Russia, you will find that everyone knows his name.

“But to emphasize one thing. I respect him as a player and person, but if we find someone better for his position – we will play this “someone”. We do not have a special relationship. Do not think that Arshavin will be play just because he is Arshavin.”

Jenkinson signs as Wenger rewards Academy graduates

Arsenal have announced their first signing of the summer with the arrival of 19-year-old defender Carl Jenkinson from Charlton Athletic.

The 6’1” youngster played nine times for the Addicks last season, predominantly at right-back, and looks likely to provide cover for Bacary Sagna and Emmanuel Eboue ahead of the new season. Born in England, Jenkinson also qualifies to represent Finland and has already played for both nations at youth level.

Speaking to the Charlton official website after confirmation of his move to North London, Jenkinson stated:

“I will always be in Charlton’s debt for the training they have given me since a young age. I’m grateful to the club’s academy and all the coaching staff, so I’m delighted the two clubs have come to an agreement.

“I hope supporters will understand why I can’t turn down such an opportunity, but Charlton will always have a place in my heart.”

As well as the signing of Jenkinson, Arsene Wenger has also moved to secure the future of three of the club’s most promising Academy graduates. Benik Afobe, Chuks Aneke and Oguzhan Ozyakup have all been offered contract extensions with the trio expected to push for first team squad status in the coming twelve months.

News of the extensions comes just days after several reserve and youth team players were released having been deemed not up to Arsenal standard. Mark Randall, well known for Carling Cup cameos, Thomas Cruise and Roarie Deacon have all become free agents.

 

Brady: There will be a lot of business done this year

Arsenal Academy director Liam Brady is still optimistic that French midfielder Samir Nasri will sign a new deal at the Emirates and predicted that Arsene Wenger will be an active force in the transfer window this summer as he bids to end the Gunners six year trophy drought.

Speculation has continued to mount in the last month that Nasri will not sign a new deal in North London with talks breaking down over a prospective big money pay increase. With talk of a move to Manchester United irking Gunners fans who have over the last year taken the little Gallic maestro to heart, Brady has urged patience and predicted that a positive outcome was still on the cards.

Speaking to talkSPORT the former Ireland international spoke of the admiration inside the club for the former Marseille man’s qualities:

“We all rate Nasri. I think they have had pretty extensive contractual talks but they haven’t got to the conclusion yet. Sometimes it takes time, we all know that. There has been plenty of players in that position, but I’d be still optimistic that Samir is playing with us next year.”

Reflecting on the trend for football gossip which has engulfed the European game since the end of the season, Brady continued:

“There is not a lot of football going on, so all the talk in the papers is going to be who’s going where and who is going to spend this and who is going to spend that. When I played in Italy it was exactly the same. It is transfer fever at the moment.”

Arsenal have been linked with a host of big names with the club thought to be keen on strengthening throughout the squad. Defenders Gary Cahill, Phil Jagielka, Christopher Samba and Phil Jones have all been tipped in various quarters to strengthen the defence at the Emirates, while the likes of Lille winger Gervinho and Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema have been spoken as possible attacking recruits.

Accepting a need to find value in a crowded market, Brady hinted that he expected Arsene Wenger to spend over the coming months:

“I do think there will be a lot of business done this year and we’ll be spending a bit more money than we’ve spent in past seasons. Arsenal will spend this year.”

 

Walcott: I want to play up front

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Theo Walcott is still desperate to prove himself as an out-and-out striker despite spending another season predominantly operating on the right side of Arsenal’s attack.

The speedy wide man has had his most prolific season to date with the Gunners, scoring 13 goals in 25 starts, despite  injuries taking their usual toll on his seemingly fragile frame.

Eager to fulfil the role which Arsene Wenger earmarked for him when he moved to North London from Southampton, the England international told The Sun:

“I want to play up front a bit more. I was signed as a striker and I haven’t forgotten how to play there,” he insisted.

“It’s difficult to get involved when you’re out on the wing, especially if you make a slow start and don’t get an early touch.

“But hopefully the boss has seen a bit more of my game coming out with goals and assists.

“With me being quick I can attract opponents and create more space for others.

“I’m not saying I’m going to win everything for Arsenal playing as a striker but I think I’ve developed and want to play up front.”

While Robin van Persie will no doubt start next term as the first choice candidate to play up front, the potential Emirates exit of Nicklas Bendtner, the alarming downturn in form of Marouane Chamakh and the lackadaisical prowess of Carlos Vela, could see Walcott given more opportunities to strut his stuff in and around the penalty box.

Nevertheless, even if Arsene Wenger does push the 22-year-old into a more central role it is unlikely to dampen the calls of the Arsenal faithful who are eager to see more firepower added to the squad. Linked with several big names Walcott himself revealed that the excitement of a summer speculation had filtered down to the squad:

“The manager has said he is going to spend this summer and I’m intrigued to see who we’re going to get.

“We’ve got a small squad and it would be nice to see a few additions. I’ve heard rumours of Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema and signing a player of that calibre would get the crowd on their feet and help us hold on to our best players.

“Of course I can understand why some of our players might be getting frustrated and thinking about leaving. They want to win things and we haven’t done that for six years.”