Arsene Wenger's need for midfield cover has been discussed at length for some time now, but concerns over Jack Wilshere's recovery means the Frenchman has to make an elite signing in January.
Cruzeiro anchor Lucas Silva presents a viable engine-room option this winter, but Bruce Archer of the Daily Star quotes Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti in confirming his side's interest in the midfielder:
We’ll have to wait for the Christmas period when everything will be clearer in terms of the recovery periods for Modric and Khedira. After that, during that period, we will take a decision.
It’s true that we are interested in Lucas Silva but he’s not the only player. If we need to, after the Club World Cup, we’ll take the decision depending on an evaluation of our midfielders who are injured at the moment.
In truth, so dire is the need for midfield reinforcements at the Emirates Stadium that even had Wilshere not been sidelined, Wenger would still be expected to make moves in the winter window.
The Mirror's James Whaling reported this week that Wilshere's comeback date had suffered a setback and that the 22-year-old would now be out until March. However, Gunners communications director Mark Gonnella refuted those claims via his official Twitter account:
Real's interest in Silva complicates matters for Wenger, but winning such a race would not only benefit the club in curing an ailment of the squad but also cementing faith in their ability to compete with Europe's giants.
What's more, David Amoyal of GianlucaDiMarzio.com quotes Cruzeiro president Tavares in hinting their Brazilian starlet could be available to whichever side moves fastest:
Silva suits the Wenger mould as a player who, while a specialist in terms of holding his line in front of the back four, is more than capable in a playmaking capacity, as is only natural given his Brazilian roots.
Opta's Orbinho notes that none of Wenger's anchoring options, including the aged figures of Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini, have the stamina to provide the Gunners defence with the cover they need:
It's an issue which has harmed Wenger's fortunes for several years now and a reluctance to address those concerns has simply led to an assortment of players who come close to performing that role but aren't quite there.
Sky Football's Daniel Storey suggests one positive to come from Wilshere's injury, noting that the side have performed better without his services for much of 2014:
Silva's prospect should be considered an enticing one for the Gunners, a player who can add more flair than Gilberto Silva might have once upon a time but still provides a shielding, metronomic quality in the centre of the park.
Whether or not Wilshere is out for the rumoured three or four months, Wenger must at least compete to bring in a higher class of holding star, with Silva sitting as the supreme option.