Arsenal and Chelsea are poised to do battle over the signature of Bayern Munich striker Mario Mandzukic this summer, with the stars aligning over the prospects of either club cutting a deal.
Both the Gunners and the Blues are in the market for a striker this summer, and Simon Jones of the Daily Mail reports that Arsene Wenger's side see Mandzukic as the "ready-made" option:
Manager Arsene Wenger is resigned to the fact that Atletico Madrid's Diego Costa is joining Chelsea this summer, while Monaco's Radamel Falcao, who is still recovering from a knee ligament injury, would be an expensive risk.
One of the biggest talking points to have emerged from the Allianz Arena in recent months is the news that Borussia Dortmund striker Robert Lewandowski has signed a pre-contract agreement to join Bayern on a free transfer this summer, per BBC Sport.
With so much talent under Pep Guardiola's control, it's understandable that some uncertainty has grown over the attacking resources in Munich. The Spanish tactician is likely to persevere with a system that involves just one out-and-out striker, presenting a difficult juggling task regarding Mandzukic.
Sky Football's Matthew Stanger quotes Guardiola saying that winning the 2013-14 Bundesliga title in record time would have been "impossible" without the Croat, which removes any notions of unease between the two:
Guardiola also praised 'fighter' Mandzukic. "It would have been impossible to win the Bundesliga without him."— Matthew Stanger (@MatthewStanger) April 1, 2014
Nevertheless, it's understandable that Mandzukic would seek assurances about his long-term future with the club, considering he's scored 17 goals in 18 league starts this term, per Transfermarkt.
Cristian Nyari of KICK TV says that Wenger would have a team capable of challenging anyone, should the Gunners bring on board the talents of Mandzukic and another of their Bundesliga targets, Julian Draxler:
Would be huge if Arsenal signed Draxler. Add Mandzukic to the mix and you've got a team that can win just about any title.— Cristian Nyari (@Cnyari) January 24, 2014
Chelsea's need for a forward could mean that the West Londoners beat Arsenal to the post, however. Samuel Eto'o's one-year deal at Stamford Bridge comes to an end this summer, and it's uncertain what Jose Mourinho has in mind for the misfiring pair of Fernando Torres and Demba Ba.
The Blues are equipped to be more financially competitive in the transfer market than their North London counterparts, but the aforementioned difficulties surrounding Costa and Falcao could mean Chelsea also look to Bavaria for their reinforcements.
Following Chelsea's 3-1 loss to Paris Saint-Germain in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final tie this week, Jose Mourinho was less relenting in comments made of his current strike force, per the Daily Mail's Neil Ashton:
I’m not happy with my strikers’ performances so I had to try things. And with Andre at least I know we have one more player to have the ball, one more player to associate with the other players, even though he’s not a striker.
But football is not just about that. It’s also about scoring goals, getting behind, and that is for strikers. Real strikers.
Olivier Giroud has done a respectable job of holding Arsenal's line this season, especially for the first half of the campaign, but as Stanger points out, a more dynamic presence might be required up top:
It's days like today that Arsenal could really do with a striker who can run in behind.— Matthew Stanger (@MatthewStanger) March 16, 2014
Mandzukic has shown this season that he's capable of being that more rounded asset in attack, albeit assisted by one of the most talented midfield rosters that European football has seen.
The desperation for both Arsenal and Chelsea to refresh their respective striking situations makes for an interesting head-to-head building up to this summer's transfer market, with Mandzukic's uncertain Bayern future certain to attract attention.