Arsenal face fight for Wilfried Zaha and Isco if Walcott quits

Oct 9, 2012
Bill Mann

Wenger checks options if Walcott decides to leave, as Gunners write off Park Chu-Young

Paul Gilham

ARSENAL have been spotted at the Palace but they weren't having a kickaround with the corgis. Rather the Gunners have been casting an eye over Wilfried Zaha, the Crystal Palace frontman who scored twice for the London club at the weekend in their win over Burnley.

The Daily Mail says that Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger is a big fan of the 19-year-old Zaha and that the club is "lining up a swoop" for the teenager in the New Year.

Apparently Wenger's former assistant, Pat Rice, was sent to Palace at the weekend to report back on Zaha, and the Mail claims that what Rice had to say was all favourable. But Zaha won't come cheap, the Championship side valuing him at £12m. Reports suggest Arsenal will happily fork out if they can't persuade Theo Walcott to sign a new deal at the Emirates.

But, as usual, Arsenal will not have everything their own way if they go after Zaha. Indeed, reports that Liverpool and Manchester City are leading the chase for the youngster and even describes Arsenal as "outsiders" for his signature. The website also suggested that the chances of an auction in January or next summer are high, as Palace are resigned to losing the player and want to get the best price they can for him.

All the usual suspects are also said to be circling young Spaniard Isco, who has a £17m release clause built into his contract at Malaga. According to website London24, Arsenal, Spurs, Liverpool and Manchester United are keen on the 20-year-old. Man City boss Roberto Mancini also saw him in action when he watched Radamel Falcao at the weekend.

Malaga do not want to sell, but have admitted that they will be powerless to prevent him moving if the release clause is triggered.

Talksport has been studying the Arsenal accounts and has spotted that the club included a £5.5m 'impairment fee' when it published its figures. This, it claims, is money the Gunners have set aside to pay Park Chu-Young's wages while his contract winds down, as they do not believe they will be able to get rid of the striker.

Other players who are surplus to requirements at the Emirates are close to the end of their contracts, explains Talksport, and concludes that the 'impairment fee' must be to cover the cost of keeping Park, who must surely rank as Arsene Wenger's worst-ever buy.

Italian giants AC Milan are planning to pull the proverbial rug from under Arsenal's feet by making an audacious bid for Udinese defender Mehdi Benatia. According to the respected Italian paper Calcio Mercato, Milan will make a substantial offer for the 25-year-old Benatia in January's transfer window leaving Arsenal to either make a heavyweight offer of their own or admit defeat in their pursuit of the Moroccan international.

Arsene Wenger has coveted Benatia for months and sees his no-nonsense style as a perfect fit for Emirates, whose defence in recent seasons has been all nonsense and no style. Though the Gunners' back-four has showed signs of improvement this season under Steve Bould, it's believed Wenger still thinks it needs strengthening.

Benatia is tied to Udinese until 2017 but with a football contract worth as much these days as an apology from Ashley Cole, the centre-back could be sold if a bidding war breaks out and drives up his price.

Hands up who remembers Mathieu Flamini, the former Arsenal midfielder who turned his back on the Gunners four years ago only for his career to take a turn for the worse? Well, according to Italian paper Gazzetta dello Sport, the 28-year-old could be set for a return to France.

Flamini and AC Milan nearly parted company in the summer - with Spurs said to be interested in signing the prima donna playmaker - but he signed a one-year extension. However, reports in Italy say Flamini now wants to return to France and take up an offer from Marseille.

In other news, Talksport warns that Liverpool will have to move faster than any of their defenders have managed so far this season if they're to land Benfica midfielder Nicolas Gaitan in January.

The Reds, as well as Manchester United, have been linked with the 24-year-old this season but apparently Anzhi have "emerged the strong favourites" to sign Gaitan. The Russians are rolling in cash and Talksport says their scouts have been impressed with what they've seen of Gaitan in recent weeks.

The Argentine playmaker comes with a £15m price tag but Anzhi are reportedly willing to pay upwards of £20m for his services. When the player's agent was asked what the future held for Gaitan, Jose Ibarren replied: "I do not rule out the possibility of him leaving Benfica if there is a big offer."

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