Arsenal Increase Chase for Morata
By Jeremy Wilson | Daily Telegraph | Published: 31st December 2013 06:00 AM |
Arsenal have not completely given up hope of signing Alvaro Morata next month despite Real Madrid insisting that there will be no mid-season departures from the Bernabeu either on loan or permanently.
Both Morata and Karim Benzema have figured on manager Arsene Wenger's list of striker targets but Carlo Ancelotti, the Real manager, does not want to lose either player in January.
Morata, a Spain Under-21 international, had been seen as the more attainable target because of his lack of regular first-team football, but Real are saying that no players will leave as they attempt to close a five-point gap on Barcelona in La Liga. The situation is only like to change at the end of the season if they can sign a new striker of their own, with Luis Suarez still regarded as an attainable option if Liverpool again fail to qualify for the Champions League despite his new contract.
Arsenal are also interested in Diego Costa but Atletico Madrid want to wait until the end of the season before making any decisions, particularly as they only trail Barcelona on goal difference in La Liga and are preparing to face AC Milan in the last 16 of the Champions League. The situation could be forced if Costa's release clause - understood to be around pounds 32 million - was triggered but Arsenal would be reluctant to stretch to that figure and Costa himself is still keen to force his way into Spain's World Cup squad. Costa has been regularly scouted by Arsenal so far this season in scoring 23 goals in only 23 games for Atletico.
Should Arsenal fail to add a striker next month, Wenger will turn down offers for Nicklas Bendtner and also explore the possibility of Lukas Podolski playing more centrally as an additional option to Olivier Giroud.
With Podolski now back following long-term injury, Arsenal's midfield could also be boosted later this week by the potential return of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, although they will be without Aaron Ramsey for at least their next two matches. Ramsey is continuing to be assessed after suffering a thigh injury against West Ham United on Boxing Day and Wenger is expected to give a more definitive prognosis this morning.
Mesut Ozil's shoulder injury is not regarded as anything too severe, but he will also miss tomorrow's Premier League match against Cardiff City and then the FA Cup third-round derby against Tottenham on Saturday. Wenger has been wanting to rest certain key players for several weeks and Giroud is also expected to be replaced by Bendtner for one of the next two matches.
Arsenal top the Premier League going into tomorrow's (Wednesday's) fixtures and, according to midfielder Mathieu Flamini, the club have discovered the fighting spirit they need to secure the club's first league title in a decade.
"People have criticised Arsenal in the past because they couldn't cope with the physical side of the game," said Flamini. "In the past few years, perhaps, it has been missing a bit. What you need in any Arsenal side is the fighting spirit, but you can see that we have it and that's great for us because if you want to win titles and cups, sometimes you have to fight for it, especially in this league because it is the hardest league.
"It's such a tough league this season because so many teams are competing for the title. There is so much quality spread across the top teams in the English league, but Arsenal have a lot of quality too and more importantly, we have the team spirit, and that could make all the difference."
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