Barcelona prepare swoop for Arsenal defender Koscielny

Sergio Aguero of Manchester City and Laurent Koscielny of Arsenal

Catalan giants line up yet another raid on the Emirates, as Juventus move for Walcott

BY Bill Mann LAST UPDATED AT 07:30 ON Tue 23 Oct 2012

THERE IS a sense of grinding inevitablity about Arsenal's misfortunes and days after all their old failings were exposed against Norwich and their hopes of challengeing for the title were badly derailed, who should be linked to one of the Gunners' best performers? You guessed it, Barcelona.

The Catalan club, who have lured stars including Thierry Henry, Cesc Fabregas and Alex Song away from the Emirates in recent years are now being linked with a move for one of Arsenal's few reliable defenders, Laurent Koscielny. The 27-year-old centre back has come a long way since he joined the Gunners from French side Lorient two years ago. So far, in fact, that Barcelona now view him as a viable alternative to Cares Puyol or Gerard Pique at the back, even though he is currently playing second fiddle to Per Mertesacker and Thomas Vermaelen.

According to Italian website Tuttomercatoweb Barca will test Arsene Wenger's resolve with a bid of £15m in January.

Perhaps the lack of drive Arsenal experienced against Norwich could be solved by installing a Honda in the engine room. According to Caught Offside the Gunners are keen to sign Japanese international Keisuke Honda from CSKA Moscow. The 26-year-old who can play almost anywhere in midfield and is something of a dead-ball specialist was heavily linked with Liverpool and Arsenal last year, but ended up sticking with the Russian outfit.

Caught Offside notes that with the injury record of the Arsenal midfield, Wenger could do with as many players as he can get his hands on in that area.

Meanwhile, Wenger has declared himself unconcerned about fresh reports linking Theo Walcott to Juventus, and insisting that he is keen to extend his contract at Arsenal. However, the England winger has so far refused to sign, apparently unhappy with the offer of £75,000-a-week and demanding the chance to get to play as a striker.

ESPN points out that it is only six weeks until the transfer window opens, but says Wenger is refusing to panic over the Juventus connection.

However, the Evening Standard suggests that Wenger is preparing for life without Walcott, by fast tracking 17-year-old Serge Gnabry into the first team squad. The youngster made his debut on Saturday and can expect to make more appearances. Gnabry's development also weakens Walcott's bargaining position in what have become complex negotiations over a new deal, says the paper.

A right old dogfight is set to erupt over teenage trickster Alen Halilovic. The 16-year-old Croatian midfielder, described by the Daily Mail as a "starlet", is being circled by Real Madrid and the two Manchester clubs.

Halilovic is considered one of the most gifted players of his generation and is currently contracted to Croatian outfit Dinamo Zagreb. The Mail reports that the young playmaker has trained with Real Madrid in recent weeks and the Spanish giants hope he can be persuaded to sign a deal for them, particularly as compatriot Luka Modric is installed at the Bernabeu.

But United and City are both keen to tempt Halilovic to England and a bidding war is expected to break out in January. Zagreb are believed to want £12m for Halilovic.

The Evening Standard report that Tottenham boss Andre-Villas Boas is targeting Shakhtar Donetsk frontman Willian as their "priority" signing when January's transfer window opens.The Lilywhites made a play for the Brazilian in the summer but couldn't agree a fee with the Ukrainian club, much to the alleged chagrin of Willian.

But according to the Standard, Villas-Boas has been pestering his chairman Daniel Levy to make an improved offer in the New Year. That would mean Spurs bidding more than the £11.8m offer they tabled in the summer, a likely scenario because Villas-Boas believes Willian's versatility could give his side plenty more options in attack.

However the Standard claims Willian won't leave Shakhtar if they qualify for the last 16 of the Champions League, a big ask considering they're in the same group as Chelsea and Juventus. Tonight the Ukrainians play Chelsea and the Standard says Spurs fans should hope the Blues triumph because that would increase the likelihood of Willian arriving at the Lane in January.

Talking of Chelsea, Talksports report that their hopes of signing Lukasz Piszczek has been shot down after the Polish international penned a new deal with  Borussia Dortmund.

The 27-year-old defender has apparently been on Roberto Di Matteo's radar for months following the exit of Jose Bosingwa, but the Blues dithered in the summer and now have lost out altogether. "I have been playing for two years in Dortmund and I am happy with the football culture, the club and the fans," said Piszczek in announcing the new deal with the German champions.

Tribal Football claims that Manchester United have a fight on their hands if they wish to sign Porto star James Rodriguez. The Colombian midfielder is now in the sights of Real Madrid and the 21-year-old is expected to sign for the Spanish giants next year. That will come as a blow to United manager Alex Ferguson who had been hoping to bring in Rodriguez for the unsettled Nani.

Finally, Italian rag Gazzetta dello Sport reports that Liverpool are the favourites to sign "Barcelona outcast" David Villa. The 30-year-old striker can't get a game for love nor money at the Camp Nou and apparently his agent, Filippo Fusco, believes it's only a matter of time before Villa is heading to England.

In an interview with Gazzetta dello Sport, Fusco said: "Villa has enjoyed many years of interest from England. The Premier League speaks for virtually all Spanish internationals and is more imaginative than the Serie A."

In referencing the Italian league, Fusco seemed to be distancing himself from rumours linking Villa with a move to Inter Milan. Instead the veteran frontman is expected to sign for the Reds in January as manager Brendan Rodgers looks to bolster his fragile frontline. · 

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Halilovic is Georgian

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