Premier League • England

Arsenal given major lift in chase for World Cup star as he ‘favours’ Emirates switch over rival Prem clubs

Achraf Hakimi and Joao Felix

Arsenal could win the race for a World Cup man after a journalist claimed he would rather move to the Emirates than Aston Villa, with Manchester United also in the mix.

Arsenal have pretty much all of their players back from the World Cup now. Bukayo Saka and Aaron Ramsdale have returned home following England’s quarter-final defeat to France on Saturday.

Gabriel Martinelli was sent home by Croatia when they beat Brazil 4-2 on penalties the day before.

The only Gunners star still in the tournament is centre-back William Saliba. He will be hoping France beat Argentina in the final on Sunday, although he has only made one substitute appearance in Qatar.

Arsenal have been hit by a couple of setbacks during the World Cup. Defender Ben White had to leave the England squad on November 30 due to personal reasons.

Arsenal fans will be hoping the 25-year-old is OK and that he will be available to feature in the first team over the coming weeks.

The north London outfit have also been rocked by Gabriel Jesus’s injury. He has had to have surgery on his right knee, which will keep him out of action for around three months.

Jesus’ injury puts Arsenal’s Premier League title challenge at risk. The Brazilian has been very impressive in attack for Arsenal this season, while also helping those around him play better.

Arsenal tipped to sign new striker

Reports suggest Mikel Arteta will aim to bring in a replacement during the January transfer window, so he can continue having a top goalscorer up front for the rest of the season.

Sources in Italy have put Dusan Vlahovic back on Arsenal’s radar. Of course, they pursued him in January but ended up losing out to Juventus.

A more likely signing for Arsenal is that of Portuguese ace Joao Felix. He is unhappy at Atletico Madrid, due to a lack of game time and a deteriorating relationship with manager Diego Simeone.

This makes a January move likely, and Arsenal are one of the teams who could land him. Interest also comes from Man Utd and Villa in the Prem.

On December 9, the Evening Standard revealed Atleti had put his price tag at £86million (€100m). Football Transfers, meanwhile, claimed Felix to be pursuing a Man Utd move.

Arsenal target makes new decision on Prem transfer

However, it looks like the World Cup star has changed his mind. The Daily Mirror journalist James Nursey, who has contacts in Portugal, states Felix ‘favours’ a transfer to Arsenal over Villa.

Nursey also confirmed Villa’s interest in capturing the 23-year-old. But it now seems they will struggle to complete a deal as he would rather move to the Emirates.

Nursey fails to mention where Man Utd fit into the equation. Perhaps they are pursuing other forwards, such as Cody Gakpo or Youssoufa Moukoko, which would make Arsenal frontrunners for Felix.

The Atleti attacker has had a troublesome spell in Madrid. He cost a whopping £113m when joining them from Benfica, which immediately put him under huge pressure.

Felix hasn’t been helped by Atleti’s style of play, which is a lot more conservative than La Liga rivals Real Madrid or Barcelona. And Felix is now struggling to get into Simeone’s starting eleven ahead of Alvaro Morata, Antoine Griezmann and Matheus Cunha.

If anyone can get Felix’s career back on track, it’s Arteta. He has done a brilliant job at Arsenal, transforming the relationship with the supporters and helping a lot of his players to improve.

Arteta would be able to boost Felix’s confidence and get him playing with more freedom again.

Of course, Arsenal would need to match Atleti’s lofty demands to bring Felix to England. They have never spent more than £80m on a single player before, so Felix would move to north London as their record signing if the deal did go through.

Meanwhile, Thursday’s Euro Paper Talk claims Arsenal have been in contact with the agent of a Serie A midfielder.