Gunners growing in confidence in pursuit of German international.
Arsenal are expected to step up their long-running pursuit of in-demand Borussia Dortmund midfielder Ilkay Gundogan as soon as the January transfer window opens for business in January.
The north London club have reportedly been keeping close tabs on the highly-rated Germany international for some time now, with Gunners head coach Arsene Wenger having initially planned on bringing Gundogan to the Emirates during the summer after the eye-catching campaign that the holding midfield player produced for his club last season.
However, the Frenchman was thwarted in his attempts by the Bundesliga giants, as Dortmund chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke refused to even enter into negotiations with his Premier League counterparts, with the Germans understood to be determined to keep hold of Gundogan, for this current campaign at the very least.
And as a result, Wenger instead shifted his focus elsewhere in his long-running search to find a suitable and capable replacement for Alex Song as a defensive midfield player in the capital, following the Cameroon international’s departure to Spanish champions Barcelona in the summer of 2012, with the Arsenal manager eventually opting to bring back former player Mathieu Flamini on a free transfer from Serie A outfit AC Milan.
But Wenger is aware that Flamini is not the long-term answer to the problem of who can protect his back four, with France international Abou Diaby still too injury prone to take on the role and Mikel Arteta also heading toward the twilight years of his career.
All of which means that Wenger has now decided to make a renewed attempt to bring Gundogan to north London in the new year, with the Gunners boss having been given fresh hope in his efforts to prize the German away from the Westfalenstadion by the recent break down in contract talks between the player and his club.
When Wenger initially made contact with Dortmund in the summer to inquire about the possibility of signing Gundogan, he was told in no uncertain terms by the German giants not to waste his time, as the midfielder would soon be putting pen to paper on a new deal in the Ruhr Valley to keep him at the club beyond the end of his current contract, which expires on June 30 2015.
However, that whole picture has now changed substantially following the revelations last month that Gundogan was stalling on signing the new deal that Dortmund had offered him in the hope of moving to a ‘bigger’ club on the Continent on better terms, either when the transfer window reopened at the turn of the year, or more likely at the end of this current campaign.
“There is nothing new to comment on, those talks and negotiations are actually on-going. If we had anything to announce, we would reveal it,” Gundogan told the Ruhr Nachrichten newspaper on the matter in September.
Consequently, the north London club are understood to now be increasingly confident of getting a player who Wenger and his newly enlarged scouting network in Germany have been monitoring for over a year now.
Wenger and the club decided to make a conscious effort to shift their scouting focus away from previous regions, particularly in France and then latterly Spain, towards Germany, where the club believe there is now a burgeoning pool of world-class, up-and-coming talent to be exploited.
In fact, the Gunners already have a number of German stars on their books, including senior internationals such as Per Mertesacker and Lukas Podolski, and they recently of course splashed out a club-record fee of £42.4m in order to bring coveted playmaker Mesut Ozil to the Emirates as well, while Germany Under-19 international Serge Gnabry has also broken into the first team of late.
And now Wenger is keen to add the missing piece in the Arsenal jigsaw as he goes in search of the club’s first Premier League title since 2004, and their first piece of silverware since the 2005 FA Cup, with the Frenchman believed to still be in possession of a whopping £50m transfer war chest that was left over from the summer.
Gundogan has featured in just the three matches in total in all competitions for Dortmund since the start of the new season, including a solitary appearance in the Bundesliga, due to a long-standing back injury that may ultimately keep the German out of action until January, and is not expected to cost Arsenal more than £20m to buy due to the fact the player now has less than two years left to run on his current deal at the club.
However, there does remain one major stumbling block to Arsenal’s successful pursuit of Gundogan and that is Dortmund’s policy in recent times of keeping hold of their star players until the end of their contracts, even in the face of big-money offers, as seen this summer with their refusal to sell Robert Lewandowski to bitter rivals Bayern Munich.