Arsenal Transfer News: Matija Nastasic Eyed as Thomas Vermaelen Replacement

Nick Akerman@NakermanFeatured ColumnistJuly 22, 2014

AL AIN, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - MAY 15:  Matija Nastasic of Manchester City in action during the friendly match between Al Ain and Manchester City at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium on May 15, 2014 in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates.  (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)
Warren Little/Getty Images

Arsene Wenger will reportedly turn to Manchester City centre-back Matija Nastasic if Thomas Vermaelen completes a move to Manchester United.

David Kent of the Daily Mail details Arsenal's interest, which has allegedly stood for quite some time:

The Serbia international was watched extensively by Arsenal scouts during his time at Fiorentina, but City moved quickly to snap up Nastasic in 2012 as he developed a reputation as one of the best emerging defenders in Europe. 

Despite missing out to City, the North London club remain keen on Nastasic and are set to revive their interest should Vermaelen leave.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 02:  Franck Ribery of Muenchen battles with Matija Nastasic of Manchester City during the UEFA Champions League Group D match between Manchester City and FC Bayern Muenchen at Etihad Stadium on October 2, 2013 in Manchester,
Julian Finney/Getty Images

Vermaelen's future remains doubtful, as noted by the player himself. "I really do not know where I will play, Arsenal or elsewhere next season," said the Belgian, per the London Evening Standard and via ESPN. Wenger will undoubtedly need to replace his club captain if a deal goes ahead, with Nastasic rumoured to lead the list of candidates.

John Cross of the Daily Mirror believes Phil Jones or Chris Smalling are also being considered, one of whom could be used during negotiations for Vermaelen. Many United fans would most likely prefer the latter to leave due to his struggle for consistent form. Jones is considered to possess the most potential and has occasionally highlighted his qualities as a dominant centre-back or man-marking machine.

BOREHAMWOOD, ENGLAND - JULY 19:  Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger looks on ahead of the pre season friendly match between Borehamwood and Arsenal at Meadow Park on July 19, 2014 in Borehamwood, England.  (Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images)
Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images

Wenger previously acknowledged he could be forced into further galvanising his defence this summer. Mathieu Debuchy has already replaced Bacary Sagna at right-back after the departing player completed his free switch to City.

"Up front we don't need any more, maybe I will still bring in one centre-back," said Wenger, per Chisanga Malata of the Daily Star. "I will bring in a goalkeeper for sure and we are still out there to strengthen our squad." The goalkeeper in question will be Colombian World Cup star David Ospina, who joins from Nice, reported by Ali Tweedale of Sky Sports. 

Nastasic could certainly do a job as cover for Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker, but he'd need to bide his time before regularly making it into the first team. Danny Pugsley of the Metro underlines a player with "undeniable talent," but someone who could be drowned out by the potential arrival of Eliaquim Mangala and emergence of Karim Rekik at the Etihad.

PLZEN, CZECH REPUBLIC - SEPTEMBER 17:  Marek Bakos (C) of Plzen challenges Matija Nastasic (R) of Manchester during the UEFA Champions League match between FC Viktoria Plzen and Manchester City on September 17, 2013 in Plzen, Czech Republic.  (Photo by Le
Lennart Preiss/Getty Images

At 21 years old, the Serbian already possesses a wealth of Premier League experience. He struggled to assert himself over Vincent Kompany and Martin Demichelis last season due to injury, but has proven himself to be a shrewd reader of the game. Nastasic is a real battler and can develop into one of the world's best centre-backs if he is given the opportunity to improve. Whether that will come at City or Arsenal remains doubtful.

Vermaelen's future needs to be sorted quickly to ensure Wenger has plenty of time to weigh up replacements. Despite the 28-year-old's lack of form across the past couple of seasons, he could represent a smart signing by Louis van Gaal. The new United boss needs versatile quality to strengthen his squad and will be confident of improving Vermaelen's form upon offering him a fresh start.

Wenger's actions very much depend on the aforementioned player's transfer. The experienced manager is building an exciting squad at the Emirates and is keen to ensure any outgoings are replaced by quality alternatives.

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 12:  Marc-Antoine Fortune of Wigan Athletic is tackled by Thomas Vermaelen of Arsenal during the FA Cup Semi-Final match between Wigan Athletic and Arsenal at Wembley Stadium on April 12, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Mike He
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Nastasic's development can be aided under the Frenchman, who has a rich history of turning youth into stars, and would finally see the Gunners steal a talent from City after so many players have moved the opposite way.