Arsenal have put signing a world-class striker at the heart of their summer transfer plans, with Real Madrid’s Gonzalo Higuaín emerging as an increasingly realistic target.
With £70 million to spend, Arsenal are preparing for their most adventurous transfer window under Arsène Wenger and are conscious of the need to move quickly within a market that will become intense following all the major managerial changes.
Wenger was interested in Higuaín before he even joined Real Madrid from River Plate in 2007 and there is a feeling that he could now be attainable for what would be a club-record transfer fee of £19 million.
Arsenal have also watched Stevan Jovetic, the Montenegro and Fiorentina striker, but there are doubts over whether he will leave Italy. Wayne Rooney is another striker to have been considered, but he is unlikely to fit into Arsenal’s wage structure.
Karim Benzema, another Real Madrid forward with an uncertain future, is also a player Wenger has long admired and it is this calibre of established forward that Arsenal want to sign.
Wenger confirmed on Friday that Arsenal were in talks for Yaya Sanogo but the Auxerre forward, 20, would be seen as a signing for the long term.
Arsenal are also targeting a goalkeeper, a holding midfielder and, should Bacary Sagna depart, a right-back. Asmir Begovic, Étienne Capoue and Lukasz Piszczek have all been scouted recently.
Arsenal can now plan in the knowledge that they must only overcome a final play-off match to again enter the Champions League group phase but Ivan Gazidis, the chief executive, stressed on Monday that silverware remained the ultimate aim. The last of Wenger’s seven trophies at Arsenal was the 2005 FA Cup. “It is important to reiterate that for everyone at the club, qualification for the Champions League is not our ultimate ambition,” said Gazidis.
“Our majority owner Stan Kroenke has made it clear that while it’s an achievement to make the Champions League our ultimate objective is to win the major trophies.
“We all share that clear ambition and will be driving the club forward to achieve it. Arsène and I have already been planning what we need to do to strengthen so we are better placed next season.
“The club is in a very strong position to move forward and our form of losing just one of our last 16 Premier League matches shows that we have a solid foundation on which to build for success.”
New commercial deals from 2014 in the form of an extended shirt sponsorship arrangement with Emirates and a kit deal with Puma should add around £45 million to the club’s annual revenues.
Wenger’s contract expires in 2014 but the issue of a potential extension will not be addressed until later in the year, according to club sources.