Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has played down speculation linking the Gunners with a move for West Bromwich Albion defender Jonny Evans, insisting the club would be "second best" to Manchester City if both sides tried to sign him.
Speaking at his press conference ahead of Wednesday's Carabao Cup semi-final first leg against Chelsea, Wenger was quizzed on his January plans. Evans is a player who has been linked with the Gunners and City, and the Frenchman was asked about Arsenal's interest.
"Nothing to say," he said, per Charles Watts of Football.London. "As long as we have no agreement, I believe the best is not to talk."
As we can see courtesy of the Daily Mirror's John Cross, when asked about battling City for the player, Wenger conceded City would have an edge over the Gunners financially:
John Cross @johncrossmirror
Wenger says he knows Arsenal will be “second best” on Evans. Wenger says it’s a “possibility” that Coquelin but plays down West Ham. Valencia and Palace also in.2018-1-9 09:18:27
Those thoughts were relayed by BBC Sport's Simon Stone, who suggested Evans would prefer to be in the north of England:
Simon Stone @sistoney67
Jonny Evans a man in demand. @Arsenal and @ManCity both made contact. Understood Wenger particularly keen. Could pay up to £25m, inc Debuchy going other way. Player ideally would stay in north west (family base) but not going to ignore club of Arsenal's standing.2018-1-8 11:12:38
In addition to the reported pursuit of Evans, Wenger also discussed a potential outgoing in the form of Francis Coquelin.
"It's a possibility but nothing is decided," the Arsenal boss said when asked if the Frenchman might leave. However, when specifically quizzed on West Ham United's interest, Wenger denied there had been any enquiry from their London rivals.
If Arsenal are to bring in any players in this window, someone who will improve their defensive play must be high up on the list. Evans, as a proven centre-back in the Premier League, would be a smart signing.
Football writer James McNicholas believes the club would benefit from having someone like the Northern Ireland international come in:
If Pep thinks Evans is good enough, perhaps he’s alright. I find it amazing that people wanted us to buy Chris Samba yet dismiss this guy.2018-1-9 05:00:59
Evans may not be the biggest name, and he has been part of a team that is on an 18-game winless run in the Premier League. However, during his time at West Brom and before that at Manchester United, he's showcased a lot of quality.
The 30-year-old is commanding in the air, fierce in his tackling and calm on the ball. They are attributes that have been in short supply for the Gunners at times this term.
According to Cross, Arsenal have been keeping an eye on his development for a while:
John Cross @johncrossmirror
Arsenal have a long standing interest in Jonny Evans but Arsene Wenger stressed yesterday they are not close at the moment. Strongly suspect Evans would favour Man City/United.2018-1-8 11:15:33
Coquelin would benefit from a move at this point, as he's fallen down the pecking order at Arsenal behind the likes of Aaron Ramsey, Granit Xhaka and a rejuvenated Jack Wilshere.
The 26-year-old has made just one Premier League start this season, and he's the subject of a £12 million bid from Valencia, per Cross.
If Wenger were able to add Evans, it would be a big boost to the team's hopes of finishing the 2017-18 season strongly. At the moment, with the team sitting in sixth in the Premier League and out of the FA Cup, the campaign is in danger of fizzling out before the January transfer window closes.
Evans would be capable of making an immediate impact for Arsenal in the Premier League and the UEFA Europa League. However, if City put together a comparable package, the defender would surely find them difficult to resist.