Premier League • England

Arsenal explode into frame to sign £43.6m UCL midfielder as top-four rivals scare Edu off controversial raid

Martin Zubimendi of Real Sociedad during the La Liga EA Sports match between Real Sociedad and FC Barcelona played at Reale Arena Stadium on November 04, 2023 in San Sebastian, Spain

Martin Zubimendi of Real Sociedad is a long-time Arsenal target

Arsenal are ready to step up their plans to sign Real Sociedad midfielder Martin Zubimendi after being priced out the race to sign a classy star from a Premier League top-four rival.

The Gunners invested heavily over the summer with Mikel Arteta allowed to splurge over £200m on the likes of Declan Rice, Kai Havertz, David Raya and Jurrien Timber. Rice has certainly made his impact felt for Arsenal, and while Timber suffered what could be a season-ending ACL injury on debut, the jury remains out on the additions of both Havertz and Raya.

Indeed, serious questions are starting to be asked of Havertz, with his inclusion in the Arsenal midfield causing a few fans and pundits alike to scratch their heads.

To that end, a far-fetched report this week has claimed Gunners sporting director Edu is having second thoughts on the signing of the £65m German and has offered him to summer suitors Real Madrid for close on half price.

Now, with Thomas Partey out injured until the new year, Arsenal suddenly have some major issues in midfield to fix and the position has become an immediate transfer priority for Edu and Arteta to fix.

Thankfully for the pair, the January window opens for business in just 51 days, meaning Arsenal will not have long to wait in order to strengthen their squad.

To that end, they are ambitiously taking a fresh look at Aston Villa star Douglas Luiz, whom they came close to signing in summer 2022.

The Brazilian has been in imperious form this season for Unai Emery’s side, who are currently sat in fifth and look a real threat to finish in the top four this season.

READ MOREExclusive: Top Arsenal target given £60m price tag which makes January deal difficult

Arsenal turn to Martin Zubimendi after Douglas Luiz shock

However, Villa are not prepared to lose their star man without a fight and, with the midfielder tied to a deal to 2026, are demanding a minimum £60m fee.

That appears above and beyond what Arsenal are willing to spend, and with Villa simply refusing to negotiate their terms on what would be a controversial move midway through the season, Arteta and Edu are turning their attentions elsewhere.

Thankfully, they do have another target in mind in the form of Real Sociedad star Zubimendi. The Gunners looked long and hard at the 24-year-old during the summer window before they were given the green light to sign Rice.

All the same, the player was determined to stay at his hometown club having helped them into the Champions League for the first time since the 2013/14 season.

Indeed, the player has thrived in the competition this season with Sociedad currently top of Group D with 10 points alongside Inter Milan. They will prove difficult foes for whichever side draws them in the last 16 next year.

However, there is no guarantee Zubimendi will still be around to participate in the competition given the tempting exit clause in his deal.

That currently stands at €50m (£43.6m) – and is starting to have very serious appeal for the Gunners, per reports in Spain.

More over, 90mins reports that Arsenal sent scouts to check on Zubimendi during their Champions League win over Benfica in midweek. And officials from the club will continue to watch him in the coming weeks with a serious approach for him touted in the January window.

While Arsenal should have no trouble matching the fee, they may have an issue convincing the player over a move and they may find he may not want to ditch his team at the mid-point of such an exciting season.

Arteta denies Thomas Partey will be sold by Arsenal

Nonetheless, Arsenal are expected to push hard to sign the two-times capped Spain star in the new year and at least meet his exit clause which should at least force the question of a move to be asked.

Speculation, however, that Arteta plans to offload Partey as a result have been swiftly denied by the Gunners boss, who insists the Ghanaian will continue to form part of his long-term plans.

Speaking in the summer, Arteta said of Partey: “Thomas is a super important player for us and for me.

“I want him to be part of the team. That’s for sure.

“Every time I spoke to him and had a conversation with him he’s ready to stay with us. For me, there’s nothing there at all.”

Unfortunately for Arteta, Arsenal appear unable to call on the 30-year-old’s services for a number of weeks amid fears he will be sidelined until the new year after undergoing treatment on a thigh injury.

“Some of the injuries that we had, they are some bad luck, some of them have been long-term injuries with some special players and when we didn’t have a lot of depth,” Arteta conceded.

“We can talk about the depth, but after you have to talk about the specific positions or certain units where we are a little bit shorter.

“But it is the challenge of the season and other people have to step up, and that as well is a good test for the team – how we take those moments and how we actually respond to that. So far, the team is doing well.”

Arsenal are in action at 3pm on Saturday when they take on Burnley at Emirates Stadium and knowing a win will help them move level on points with current leaders Manchester City.

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