Arsenal target Jovetic, Lopez and Villa, Balotelli to quit City
Three names on shortlist as Wenger admits he's looking for a striker - but why no defenders?
IT MIGHT be an idea if Arsene Wenger stopped fretting about finding another forward and instead dipped into the transfer market to shore up his diabolical defence. But according to the Mirror, the Nutty Professor "has admitted he will try to sign a new striker" before the transfer window slams shut on Thursday night.
Olivier Giroud, Lukas Podolski and Theo Walcott have all been finding the net consistently for the Gunners this year, while at the back the only consistent thing about Arsenal has been their incompetence. Nonetheless the Mirror claims that Wenger has three frontmen on his shortlist: Barcelona's David Villa, Fiorentina's Stevan Jovetic and Atletico Madrid's Adrian Lopez.
Asked at the weekend if he was still in the market for another striker, Wenger replied: "Number-wise we are maybe a bit short [but] it will not be easy, though, because you do not find strikers who are good enough to play for us on the street." Strikers, no, but defenders, yes, as Andre Santos and Per Mertesacker once again demonstrated during Saturday's edgy win over Brighton in the FA Cup.
Meanwhile the Daily Mail reports that the Gunners are stalking Aston Villa striker Christian Benteke. The 22-year-old has been one of the standout performers for Villa in their otherwise appalling season and while no one likes to kick a man when he's down – except Eden Hazard – Arsenal are apparently poised to exploit Villa's troubles by enticing Benteke to the Emirates.
The Mail says FA Cup flops Tottenham are also interested in Benteke, who has scored 11 goals this season since arriving in a £7.5m move from Belgian side Genk.
Arsenal and Spurs are also said to be going head-to-head over West Ham midfielder Mohamed Diame. Both are expected to offer the £3.5m that will trigger the Senegalese player's release clause.
Caughtoffside says that having failed to agree a new contract at West Ham the 25-year-old is now set to switch allegiances, but it remains to be seen which of the north London clubs will win his signature.
Stop the clocks and cut off the telephone. Today could be a tragic one for English football if reports that Mario Balotelli is set to bid farewell to the Premier League prove to be correct.
The Sun claims that the Italian star will leave Manchester City in a £17m deal and return to Italy with AC Milan. The paper even says that Balotelli is so convinced that he is leaving that he threw a party at his house for close friends. Fortunately there were no fireworks and the fire brigade were not called.
City paid £22m for the player in August 2010 and since then he has provided some memorable moments for football fans of all persuasions. However, the paper reports that the relationship between Balotelli and his mentor Roberto Mancini has disintegrated and is now "unsustainable", and that has prompted City to cut their losses.
The Sun also says that Liverpool have sent a team to Italy to complete the £8.5 million signing of Philippe Coutinho. The Reds, humbled by Oldham in the FA Cup at the weekend, have been tailing the Brazilian midfielder for several weeks and were at one point lagging behind Southampton in their attempt to sign the 20-year-old.
But the Sun reports that Liverpool have now tabled a revised offer and are cautiously optimistic it will hit all the right buttons at Inter. Coutinho signed for Inter at 16 from Brazilian side Vasco da Gama and one thing the Reds have to sort out is a work permit before he can move to Merseyside.
The Daily Star reckons that Newcastle could pip both Arsenal and Lille to the hand of Bastia rookie Florian Thauvin. The midfielder turned 20 at the weekend and is wanted by the Magpies before he gets too much older. Apparently Newcastle have had an offer of £2.5m knocked back by the Corsican club but they will make an "improved offer" by Thursday in the hope of making Thauvin their sixth French signing of the January transfer window.
Sky Sports says Reading have made a bid for Blackpool winger Tom Ince. The England Under 21 international has caught the eye of a host of Premier League clubs this season, among them Liverpool and Swansea, but Sky report that Reading "are hoping to steal a march on their rivals" by offering around £8m for the son of former England captain Paul Ince.
Blackpool boss Steve Thompson is aware of the interest but intends to play hardball for the 20-year-old. "Everything has a price," he stated. "So if he is going to go, he is not going to go cheap. He is a special talent."
Finally, the Daily Mail claims that Didier Drogba has turned down "a sensational approach" from Chelsea and instead signed an 18-month contract with Turkish outfit Galatasaray.
Apparently Blues owner Roman Abramovich was behind a deal proposed to the former Chelsea striker last week which would have seen him return to the Bridge for the rest of the season, with the possibility of a further year's contract to follow. The Mail says Drogba was sorely tempted but in the end decided to reject the offer and sign with the Turks. ·