x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Wenger ready to spend with defender Cahill top of his wish list

Arsene Wenger is contemplating making Gary Cahill, the Bolton Wanderers defender, his most expensive signing at the transfer window.

Arsene Wenger is contemplating making Gary Cahill, the Bolton Wanderers defender, his most expensive signing when the transfer window reopens in January.

The Arsenal manager recently revealed he "has the resources available to bring in one or two players if needed in January" and it is understood Cahill, the England centre-back, is his No 1 target.

Bolton will be loath to sell their best defender, who made his debut for England against Bulgaria in September, but will have little choice should Arsenal table a bid of £17.5 million (Dh87,863m), which would trigger an apparent release clause in the three-year contract Cahill signed in 2009.

A deal for Cahill, 24, would eclipse the reported £17m Arsenal paid for Jose Antonio Reyes in 2004.

Wenger has watched Cahill several times and enjoys a good relationship with Owen Coyle, the Bolton manager, after loaning him Jack Wilshere, the England midfielder, last season, which augurs well for any potential deal.

Wenger, though, does not have an impressive track record in signing English players. He paid a combined £14m for Richard Wright, the goalkeeper, and Francis Jeffers, the striker, yet the pair made just 34 appearances between them and were sold at a considerable loss.

A move for Cahill would also buck Wenger's trend of importing foreign players, evidenced by the fact that only seven of the Arsenal manager's 84 signings in 14 years have been English.

Wenger may have little option but to spend in January if Arsenal are to mount a genuine challenge for silverware.

He is spoilt for choice in midfield and attack but he will be concerned that the clean sheet against a Manchester City side, who played 86 minutes with 10 men, was their first in the league this season.

Arsenal spent a reported £14m on signing Laurent Koscielny and Sebastien Squillaci in the summer, adding ballast to a defence that already includes Johan Djourou and Thomas Vermaelen. But the Achillies injury sustained by Vermaelen has shown Wenger how short his options are in defence, which was compounded by the news yesterday that Kieran Gibbs, the left-back, has been ruled out for several weeks with a knee injury sustained in the 4-0 Carling Cup win over Newcastle United on Wednesday.

Wenger could face competition for the signature of Cahill from north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur.

The long-term fitness problems of Ledley King and Jonathan Woodgate are a cause of growing concern to Harry Redknapp, the manager, who will be eager to see Michael Dawson return in December from a knee ligament injury sustained playing for England against Bulgaria. Ironically, that injury to Dawson handed Cahill his England debut as a substitute.

Meanwhile, the return of Theo Walcott from injury must feel like signing a new player for Wenger.

Walcott scored twice at Newcastle on Wednesday in his first start since he was injured on England duty last month. He is likely to start against West Ham United tomorrow. "Theo was sharp at Newcastle," Wenger said in the post-match press conference.

"You see that he has improved his composure in front of goal, he has tremendous pace and his first touch is much better. He is a very young boy and he is a very intelligent player and that's why I believe he will continue to develop."