Adding steel to the midfield ranks is a priority for Arsenal this winter, and the club have drawn up a four-man shortlist of players they're chasing in January, but Karim Benzema once again looks out of reach for the club.
A club "recruitment source" reportedly informed Football Insider's Wayne Veysey that William Carvalho of Sporting Lisbon, Lazio's Lucas Biglia, Villarreal midfielder Bruno Soriano and Porto's Ruben Neves are "all on the radar."
It was suggested before the season even got underway the Gunners required more options in the engine room, but the failure to bulk up the squad has been highlighted by recent injuries to Francis Coquelin and Santi Cazorla.
Manager Arsene Wenger was pleased to welcome Aaron Ramsey back to fitness, but James Olley of the London Evening Standard reported defender Calum Chambers will be tried in the middle:
Of the quartet mentioned, Villarreal anchor Soriano strikes as the lesser-mentioned addition to Arsenal's list of targets, while Carvalho, Neves and Biglia have each been through their spells of speculation with north London.
The Gunners have been taking in the talents of 18-year-old sensation Neves, who is currently earning rave reviews in the Primeira Liga for his performances at the Estadio do Dragao.
According to Metro's Portuguese football expert Jan Hagen, Arsenal have scouted the prodigy on numerous occasions of late, suggesting that while Carvalho may be superior at present, Neves holds far more potential:
Veysey mentions that Neves and Carvalho are being sought on permanent deals—as if their clubs would allow anything else—while Biglia, 29, and Soriano, 31, could be brought in on six-month loan deals.
After failing to add one senior outfield player over the summer, Wenger is under immense pressure to do business in January, and Football Insider provided quotes from the tactician, stating: "We are in a position where we want to do something. If I find the right quality I will do something. Who doesn’t love a bargain? What is for us a bargain is to buy top quality as only top quality strengthens our squad.”
Another name linked to the Emirates Stadium over the course of the summer months was Real Madrid striker Benzema, but after reiterating his admiration for the club, a winter departure seems unlikely.
The Frenchman scored a hat-trick in Tuesday's 8-0 win over Malmo, after which he insisted on praising all aspects of the organisation for their support in what's been a tough time off the pitch, per Spanish daily Marca:
It has been a great night with a lot of goals and a fantastic match for us all. A lot of goals, three for me, four for Cristiano; the team are looking good. We're going to keep on like this.
I did need this as I always do. Goals are very important for forwards, but it isn't just that; there has been the affection of the fans, of the president, of my teammates, and of the manager too.
My teammates have congratulated me. For me the president is very important, and I have a lot of respect for him. I am happy here because the club backed me up. I play for my family, and other things don't matter to me.
Nicholas Godden of the Daily Mail explained the role Benzema is alleged to have played as an intermediary between France team-mate Mathieu Valbuena and those seeking to blackmail the Lyon midfielder.
But after returning to fitness and scoring five goals in his last two outings for Real, some state of normalcy has resumed for the forward, and BT Sport confirmed Tuesday's haul saw Benzema climb the UEFA Champions League scoring stakes:
It seems Real have done all the right things to convince Benzema they're the club for him, and the feelings are sure to be mutual considering the 27-year-old's positive impact since returning to fitness.
Arsenal would undoubtedly struggle to convince the Spanish outfit to sell their star asset given his recent form, with Wenger forced to seek alternatives as backup to Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud.