Arsenal are leading the way to sign James Milner from Manchester City, a transfer that would put the champions in a difficult position when trying to fulfill the Premier League's homegrown player quota.
Arsene Wenger is looking to strengthen his squad after capturing the FA Cup—his first trophy in nine years—and will reportedly look to City's dependable winger, according to Daniel Taylor of the Guardian:
Arsenal want to sign James Milner from Manchester City after the England midfielder informed the newly crowned Premier League champions he would like a transfer. Liverpool are also interested but Arsenal, the FA Cup winners, are leading the way as it stands.
As reported by Nick Sutton of BBC Radio 4, the Times also believes Milner will be added as a key member of the Gunners' squad:
Milner remains a bit-part player at the Etihad, someone who is turned to when leads need consolidating rather than establishing. He recently acknowledged a decision needs to be made on his future, saying: "It's an ongoing question whether I am better staying off at a club like City and playing big games in big competitions or playing more regularly somewhere else," reported by Steve Bates of the Mirror.
Despite making just 15 starts across the Premier League and Champions League this season, Milner's presence remains important, per WhoScored.com. He ensures City remain on track with the FA's "Home Grown Player rule," which states clubs cannot name more than 17 non-homegrown players aged over 21 in their Premier League squad.
With players including Joleon Lescott, Micah Richards, Jack Rodwell, Gareth Barry and Scott Sinclair likely to leave, Milner's continued stay remains vital. Considering City cannot afford to spend huge amounts after failing to comply with UEFA's financial fair play rules, the club finds itself in a difficult situation if Milner decides it's time to move on, per BBC Sport.
The workhorse Englishman's versatility will also be missed. Milner played on both wings and from central midfield across the last season, filling in when Manuel Pellegrini needed energy. Perhaps underrated due to his lack of explosive pace, Milner is powerful, possesses excellent vision and is extremely useful from dead-ball situations.
When in form, the 28-year-old is more than capable of scoring on a regular basis. He netted a terrific goal at the Emirates last season and will feel he has more to offer at this peak stage of his career. Despite a lack of games, Milner's stock remains high enough for the player to make Roy Hodgson's 23-man England squad for the 2014 World Cup.
His arrival at Arsenal would likely be met with a summer clear-out. Lukasz Fabianski is among the names to be tipped with a north London exit, as acknowledged by the goalkeeper after Arsenal's trophy win, per John Cross of the Mirror:
Probably that was my final game for Arsenal and I am really proud of that final game. We will see. In the next few weeks, I will know more. I think my decision is made on playing regularly. That's the main case for me. This club has been fantastic, I love this club. It's purely a sporting decision.
Bacary Sagna could be heading the opposite way to Milner, per Sami Mokbel of the Daily Mail. Milner's boundless energy down the flank would make up for the Frenchman's absence if the pair did exchange clubs, but Wenger will need to quickly outline a right-back replacement to help fill the void.
Milner would likely prove to be a smart acquisition for the Gunners boss. The midfielder's experience across a number of roles in the Premier League remains attractive to a manager who must add a sense of steel to a side that currently plays fast-paced, passing football whenever possible. Arsenal could use added grit, something Milner would provide.
Wenger needs to follow this year's cup success with at least the same result next season. Smart buys, those that improve the squad's overall output and versatility, will go a long way to ensuring he manages this. Milner can be classed in this bracket, and with an extended run of games, he could become a firm favourite at the Emirates.
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