Arsenal chase Shaquiri and strikers Martinez, Ba and Bakkali
Gunners linked to young European stars as Wenger hunts for strikers to help Giroud
HOW quickly things can change in football. After a summer of turmoil Arsenal find themselves sitting proudly atop the Premier League, with the fans purring and the prospect of silverware after an eight-year drought on the horizon.
It all makes the rumours linking the Gunners to some of the hottest prospects in Europe sound rather more plausible than they did a couple of months ago, when Arsene Wenger was widely regarded as a busted flush and the club looked as if it was heading for mid-table obscurity.
First off the rank is Bayern Munich's Swiss midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri, who Arsenal will attempt to lure to London in the New Year, if Swiss website Infoticker is to be believed. The Gunners will test Bayern's resolve with an offer of €15m in the January sales. It also reveals that 21-year-old Shaquiri, who is already a fixture in the Swiss national side, is known as the 'Dribble King'.
Another youngster on Wenger's radar is Zakaria Bakkali, the 17-year-old PSV Eindhoven striker who is tipped to become one of the hottest properties in Europe. Talksport reports that Arsenal have been "heavily linked" with the teenage prodigy but his current club want to keep hold of their prized asset. Talksport explains that in Holland players under the age of 18 cannot sign contracts for "longer than three years" and so PSV will aim to tie him to the club for the foreseeable future in the New Year, when he comes of age. The Gunners are also expected to make an offer in January, and there could also be interest from Chelsea and Man City.
He's not the only striker being linked with a move to Arsenal. Italian gossip site Tutto Mercato claims that Arsenal are also keen on FC Porto striker Jackson Martinez. The 27-year-old Colombian's record in front of goal is none too shabby. He has hit 31 goals in 36 league matches for his current employers, and that might explain why he has a release clause worth €40m.
But could Wenger look closer to home for some extra firepower? According to Metro, Demba Ba is Wenger's preferred choice of striker to assist Olivier Giroud. The 28-year-old has failed to impress at Chelsea so far this season and after almost landing him in the summer, Arsenal may try to get him on loan for the rest of the season, and try to secure him on a permanent deal after that.
Still in London and the Evening Standard says Kevin De Bruyne has vowed to fight for his place at Chelsea and is not making plans to quit the club. The 22-year-old midfielder has felt the rough side of Jose Mourinho's tongue this season, metaphorically-speaking, after his substandard performance against Swindon in the Capital One Cup.
The Standard says his subsequent axing from the starting line-up "has sparked speculation" that the Belgium international, signed from Genk for £7m in 2012, is considering his future. Not so, say sources close to the player, who are adamant De Bruyne is determined to prove himself to Mourinho and he'll have a chance on Sunday against Norwich after being called up to replace the injured Eden Hazard.
In other news Metro reports that Cape Verde midfielder Cabral could be on his way out of Sunderland just three months after joining the club from Swiss outfit Basle, with the 24-year apparently beguiled by the bright lights of Blackpool. It's claimed that the Championship side are "monitoring" the midfield magician who has so far failed to produce any tricks in a Sunderland shirt. Neither Paolo Di Canio nor interim boss Kevin Ball have placed much faith in Cabral but Metro says Tangerines' guv'nor Paul Ince is tempted to take a chance on the box-to-box midfielder.
Finally, the Daily Mail reports that Manchester United are keeping tabs on 6ft 5in defender Kalidou Koulibaly as David Moyes looks to strengthen his backline after what the paper calls their "torrid start to the season". The colossal Koulibaly is currently towering over opponents for Belgian side Genk having joined them from Metz last summer. Capped 11 times for the U-20 French side, the 22-year-old has also filled in as a defensive midfielder in the past and it's that versatility that has caught the eye of Moyes and, says the Mail, Manchester City, who are rumoured to have have sent scouts across the Channel to run the rule over Koulibaly. ·