Arsenal are yet to decide on a priority playmaker target as Mikel Arteta’s side narrow their list down to four main names.
Houssem Aouar, James Maddison, Ruben Neves and Renato Sanches are on Arsenal’s radar at the moment as they assess the relative merits of each potential deal, CaughtOffside understands.
Despite growing transfer gossip in recent days about Arsenal’s pursuit of Leicester City star Maddison, CaughtOffside understands the Gunners’ interest is not yet that advanced, with Aouar long regarded as the club’s preferred option.
Arsenal chief Edu is known to have held talks with Lyon over signing Aouar last summer, and there is still the sense that the France international may be the most realistic option from a financial perspective, as well as being a great fit for the squad’s needs at the moment.
Martin Odegaard and Dani Ceballos have returned to Real Madrid after both being on loan at the Emirates Stadium, and Arsenal were initially keen to sign Emi Buendia before he ended up leaving Norwich City for Aston Villa.
The issue with Aouar, however, is that Lyon’s willingness to sell for a reasonable fee has also seen other clubs join the race in recent days, with CaughtOffside understanding that Liverpool have a growing interest in the 23-year-old.
This has led AFC to look at Maddison, Neves and Sanches as alternatives, but it could still be that they will attempt to move ahead of their rivals with a deal for Aouar.
Arteta has had a strong start to the summer by adding Nuno Tavares and Albert Sambi Lokonga to his squad, while Ben White’s move to the club is also closer to completion.
That leaves a creative midfielder as the next priority for Arsenal, though CaughtOffside understands that links with Sassuolo and Italy star Manuel Locatelli are wide of the mark.
Although Locatelli is admired by Arsenal and many other top clubs, it is understood that the Euro 2020 winner is most likely to join Juventus if he leaves Sassuolo this summer.
It will be worth keeping an eye on developments with Maddison, Neves and Sanches potentially being targeted by Arsenal, but it may be some time before the club steps up efforts for any of those players, depending on what happens with Aouar.