Premier League • England

Chelsea muscle Arsenal off £68m January transfer after brutal injury setback sparks confirmed contact

Dusan Vlahovic and Brazilian Vinicius Junior fight for the ball during a soccer game between Brazil and Serbia, in Group G of the FIFA 2022 World Cup in Lusail, State of Qatar

Chelsea have taken the first step towards signing an Arsenal striker target in January after suffering an untimely injury of their own, and Fabrizio Romano has outlined how Christopher Nkunku fits into the developing situation.

Both London clubs have voids to fill in their final thirds next month. Arsenal were rocked when Gabriel Jesus picked up a knee injury playing for Brazil at the World Cup. The 25-year-old has undergone surgery to correct a medial ligament issue and could miss anywhere up to three months.

The injury bug has also bitten at Stamford Bridge, with Armando Broja set for a lengthy spell on the sidelines.

The rising striker ruptured his ACL during a friendly against Aston Villa on Sunday. Broja, 21, was a growing influence in Graham Potter’s attack prior to the World Cup and the Albanian has been ruled out for the remainder of the season.

His devastating injury now leaves Chelsea with just Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as their sole recognised centre-forward. Kai Havertz can play up top, though has never truly convinced in the position, or in a Chelsea shirt at all, for that matter.

An obvious option would be to accelerate the club’s plans to sign RB Leipzig’s Christopher Nkunku.

Nkunku to Chelsea six months early? 

The Frenchman is more than capable of deputising up top and is on course to join the Blues next summer.

However, writing for Caught Offside, transfer guru Fabrizio Romano revealed Chelsea will not bring their Nkunku move forward. Regardless, he did confirm a new signing will be made.

“Chelsea will actively work to find a new striker after the Armando Broja injury,” wrote Romano.

“Christopher Nkunku is expected to join in the summer so they will look at other players.

“Now it’s still early to say who are the serious candidates, Chelsea will explore many options but the idea is to sign a new striker in January to replace Broja.”

Romano stopped short of naming any firm striker candidates, but another trusted source did.

Chelsea contact Arsenal target Vlahovic

CBS Sports’ Ben Jacobs reported Chelsea are among a cluster of clubs to make contact with the agent of Dusan Vlahovic.

The Serbian only joined Juventus from Fiorentina in a deal that could reach €80m (approx. £68m) last January. However, Juve’s off-field turmoil could result in the master poacher moving on next month.

Arsenal were heavily linked with Vlahovic at the beginning of 2022 and the injury to Jesus has put the Gunners in the market for a new forward. Aside from Vlahovic, the likes of Joao Felix and Mykhaylo Mudryk have been heavily mentioned.

Jacobs tweeted ‘it remains to be seen’ whether Arsenal reignite their interest in Vlahovic. The 22-year-old has operated at around a goal every other game since moving to Turin (16 in 36).

There’s ‘nothing significant’ between the club and player at present, and their inaction is leaving the door ajar for the likes of Chelsea to swoop.

The Blues are among ‘several top European clubs’ who’ve contacted Juve with the intention of finding out whether Vlahovic is available next month.

PSG are named as believing Vlahovic would have been available next summer. However, Juventus’ off-field strife is heightening talk he’ll move in January.

The club’s entire board of directors, president Andrea Agnelli and vice president Pavel Nedved, have all resigned following preliminary investigation by the Turin Public Prosecutor’s Office into fraudulent accounting and alleged hidden payments to players.

Juve are aware they may face sporting sanctions if the judgement doesn’t fall in their favour. What’s more, there’s no guarantee they’ll secure the riches of Champions League football next year anyway and as such, are deemed open to cashing in on Vlahovic.

A lingering groin injury will make suitors pause for thought. Jacobs added Vlahovic has carried the niggle for some time.

However, the signs are all pointing towards Vlahovic moving in 2023 and potentially as early as January. Of the English suitors named, it’s Chelsea who are acting on their interest thus far.

Given Vlahovic moved for around £68m just one year ago and has met expectations in Turin, it stands to reason Juve will want at least what they paid from any sale.

READ MORE: Chelsea to ‘play the Romelu Lukaku card’ in daring pursuit of World Cup star, as La Liga alternative emerges