Arsene Wenger says Arsenal will sign a new defender before the end of the transfer window and insists he is considering players of all ages.
Wenger has made no secret he wants to add at least one centre-back to his ranks before the transfer window shuts at the end of the month and has been linked with Shkodran Mustafi of Valencia and Southampton skipper Jose Fonte.
The Frenchman was keen to strengthen his defensive ranks even before injuries sidelined both Per Mertesacker and Gabriel – while Laurent Koscielny has been given an extended rest having reached the Euro 2016 final with France.
Inexperienced duo Calum Chambers, 21, and new signing Rob Holding, 20, were partnered at the back for Sunday’s 4-3 defeat to Liverpool.
The pair could also line up against champions Leicester on Saturday with Wenger admitting it would be a “gamble” to play Koscielny at the King Power Stadium.
While a move for Germany international Mustafi has been mooted, Arsenal have also been linked with Fonte.
The 32-year-old won the European Championships with Portugal this summer and has been a reported target for both Arsenal and Manchester United, with Wenger revealing his recruitment hunt will not be restricted by how old a player is.
“We have no limit in age,” he said.
“If it is a guy of 32 and we think he has the quality then we will do it.
Asked if he expected to sign a defender before the transfer deadline, Wenger simply replied: “Yes.”
And, although he admits a defender has been a long-term target, the 66-year-old believes top-quality centre-backs are at a premium.
“If Mertesacker and Gabriel had not been injured in pre-season, we would have been less under pressure to sign a defender,” he said.
“But once you are under pressure, everybody knows you are so it makes you weaker. We have been in the market a long time but if you look around in Europe, all my friends I call are all looking for centre-backs but they cannot find them.
“That is why we also buy young centre-backs to develop, because when you have one or two of the quality to make it to the top it is fantastic because it is a position that is difficult to find, especially at the big clubs.”
While a new defender seems a near-certainty, Wenger may yet continue the season with the attacking options currently available to him.
And he has been handed a boost with the news Danny Welbeck could return in December after suffering a second serious knee injury in the space of a year towards the end of last season.
“He has an inflammation of his knee and they had to go in again to see if it is healing well or not,” Wenger said.
“If the healing was not good, he would have been out until April.
“The news was excellent and he will be back around Christmas. He had a second check, not a procedure, a check with a camera inside.
“That was the good news of last week, the only good news. That was very positive.”