Arsenal transfer watch: Serge Aurier, Antoine Griezmann and more
Kieran Beckles takes a look at some of the Arsenal transfer targets on show at this summer's World Cup
Ivory Coast international Serge Aurier is the favourite to replace Bacary Sagna at The Emirates next season. The France defender has agreed to join rivals Manchester City, and with Carl Jenkinson still needing time to develop, Aurier is a good option. The Toulouse right-back created both of Ivory Coast’s goals in the 2-1 victory over Japan in the World Cup opener last week. It prompted a swell of approval from Arsenal supporters on Twitter, and the defender backed up that debut World Cup performance against Colombia on Thursday evening. Aurier was a constant threat charging down the right wing, showcasing his pace and crossing ability. The 21-year-old is a ready-made replacement for Sagna and can continue to grow under the guidance of Arsene Wenger. Whilst Holland right-back Daley Blind may be the talk of the tournament so far in terms of defenders, Aurier is still an astute buy and reportedly available for a cut-price £5.5m.
He ranks as one of the best characters to ever grace the Premier League, and Mario Balotelli could be set for a shock return according to recent media reports. The Italy international continues to be linked with Arsenal as the 23-year-old seeks a move away from struggling AC Milan. Arsene Wenger is speculated to have met with Balotelli’s ever-scheming agent Mino Raiola in a bid to seal a £25m move to north London. Can the Arsenal manager tame Balotelli? Roberto Mancini and Jose Mourinho tried and failed to curb the striker’s off-field antics. Wenger lost patience with Emmanuel Adebayor causing disruption in the Emirates Stadium dressing room, too. But if Wenger is judging Balotelli solely on his World Cup form, the Italy striker could be the answer up front for the Gunners. Balotelli was a constant menace in a 2-1 victory over England last Saturday and 20 goals in 54 Premier League games is a decent top-flight record.
With Thomas Vermaelen being linked with a move away from Emirates Stadium this summer, Wenger is expected to strengthen his options at centre-half. Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker have emerged as the Gunners’s first-choice pairing, but France international Eliaquim Mangala could provide top-class competition for a starting spot. The Porto defender has £36.5m contract release clause, and the price tag could prove a stumbling block to any potential deal. Arsenal supporters were denied the chance to see Mangala against Honduras as France eased to a 3-0 victory in their Group E opener. Eager Gunners fans may get a chance to assess the Porto defender when les Bleus take on Switzerland on Friday, but it will take a starring performance to convince Wenger to open his cheque book and splash a large fee on a centre-half, even if he is undoubted Premier League quality.
The Bayern Munich striker has been touted as an Arsenal target for the best part of six months as Wenger was linked with a move for a forward in the January transfer window. Mario Mandzukic is keen to seal a move away from the Allianz Arena after struggling to hold down a regular starting spot under Pep Guardiola. The Croatian is powerful, tall, and most reassuringly for Arsenal fans, prolific. The 6ft 2ins star, who has scored 33 goals in 54 Bundesliga appearances since moving to Bayern, returned to Croatia’s line-up for their Cameroon clash after serving his one-match suspension. After a slow start against the African side, Mandzukic burst into life with a powerful header to beat former Liverpool goalkeeper Charles Itandje before a simple finish to seal a 4-0 win. The 28-year-old would be a good signing for the Gunners and provide stiff competition for Olivier Giroud, who was hit and miss last season.
The France international was one of the eye-catching performers in 3-0 victory over Honduras on Sunday. Admittedly the Real Sociedad man failed to score in what proved a rout against the 10-man Central Americans, but Griezmann showed enough ‘Arsenal qualities’ to suggest that he would be a hit in north London. The 23-year-old is filling the void left by Franck Ribery in Didier Deschamp’s side – no pressure! The Sociedad star was comfortable in possession, a nimble mover on the ball and produced probing final balls. The France youngster finished with a pass-completion rate of 91 per cent – a stat that would impress Wenger. Griezmann was giving the freedom to vacate his starting position on the left wing and he looked a danger cutting infield. The Arsenal manager will watch on with interest as the France forward comes up against a stiffer test on Friday when les Bleus face Switzerland.