Arsene Wenger's plans to breathe new life into his squad could include a shake-up in defensive personnel this summer, with Matija Nastasic being eyed up as a replacement for Thomas Vermaelen.
Wenger spoke to the official Arsenal website after watching his side beat Boreham Wood 2-0 in a pre-season friendly on July 19, offering insight into Vermaelen's current stance and what the summer market holds for his squad:
I cannot guarantee that [he will stay at the club] but should he go, I will bring another centre back in for sure. ...
I can't give you any names because you are never sure that you can do what you want. We are still out there to strengthen our squad.
Nastasic saw his 2013-14 season stunted by calf and knee injuries, managing to make just 13 Premier League appearances as a result, per Transfermarkt.
However, the young Serbian nevertheless remains a valued part of Manchester City's defensive make-up, and the club currently value his services at £16 million, per Kent's report, with Roma and Inter supposedly offering competition.
Chris Wheeler of the Daily Mail has suggested that the impending arrival of Porto centre-back Eliaquim Mangala could also influence City's decision to sell, with Vincent Kompany and Martin Demichelis already offering competition.
It's a thriving horde of talent for 21-year-old Nastasic to jostle with, and by no means would Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker, Wenger's central incumbents, be any more welcoming.
Would Wenger's squad be stronger or weaker with Nastasic in Vermaelen's place?
However, the French helmsman has always proved willing to rotate in the interest of developing youth, and there were times last season where it seemed Mertesacker and Koscielny could have used a rest, but elite options were in short supply.
At 28 years old, Vermaelen isn't the long-term solution many might hope for in a third-choice centre-back, and Nastasic presents the ideal alternative in that case. The Eastern European is young enough to play the role of understudy but talented enough to give an immediate impact when called upon.
In his few appearances for the Gunners last season, Vermaelen racked up an average passing rate of 90.2 percent, per WhoScored, which for a team like Arsenal fits the club profile and the football Wenger will encourage.
Nastasic was superior to that number, however, averaging 90.8 percent pass completion across all competitions, even going as high as 91.9 percent in league contest. Granted, City boast a sizeable chunk of possession in their games, but no other central defender in Manuel Pellegrini's squad managed a superior accuracy.
One would be tempted to say those figures could even improve in North London, with Nastasic averaging 46.5 passes per league game last term while Vermaelen made just 24.8, almost half the sum.
Broadcaster Paul Sarahs says that Nastasic could see his chances limited in pre-season due to injury, however, presenting one factor for Wenger to be concerned with:
@DavieDee1893 Nastasic is struggling with an undiagnosable injury. Rekik will be given pre-season to prove his worth or another loan deal.— Paul Sarahs (@PaulSarahs) July 11, 2014
Provided the Citizens' youngster can stave off any injury concerns, his services would indeed be worth the investment required on top of Vermaelen's selling price, if a changing of the guard was to be sanctioned.
It's important that the harmony currently being enjoyed in Wenger's defence doesn't go disrupted while gradually injecting extra competition to the mix, and in that pursuit, Nastasic fits the criteria to a tee.