Sunday, 10 July 2011

Arsene Wenger ‘set to steal Downing from Liverpool’

With Arsenal's top players seemingly in open revolt, manager Arsene Wenger is hoping to pull off a coup of his own by pinching England international Stewart Downing from under the nose of Kenny Dalglish.
Downing, who joined Aston Villa after Middlesbrough's relegation two years ago, has become an established feature on the national scene, notching up 27 caps for England since his debut in 2005.
The midfielder has been pursued by Liverpool in recent weeks – but according to the Mail on Sunday Arsenal hope to "hijack" him before any deal is signed with the Reds.Wenger is having a torrid summer, with the youthful team he has carefully cultivated over recent seasons suddenly disintegrating before his eyes.
Gael Clichy has left for Manchester City and is expected to be joined at Eastlands by fellow Frenchman Samir Nasri any minute now.Cesc Fabregas, Arsenal captain and perennial Barcelona target, is widely tipped to be returning home to Spain after the Arsenal board made it apparent they'd be wiling to sell the 24-year-old.The cloud does have a silver lining, however: Wenger is expected to make around £70 million from the three deals – money that can be spent rebuilding the squad.
As well bidding for Downing - believed to be priced at around £15m – Wenger has reportedly offered double-figure sums for Lyon's Gervinho, Bolton's Gary Cahill and Everton's Phil Jagielka.
Arsenal fans will take heart at the news. Their manager has been notoriously unwilling to spend big in previous transfer windows, preferring instead to invest in youngsters, resulting in a silverware draught stretching back to 2005.
Yet Wenger's apparent determination to reinvest any money from summer sales, combined with his willingness to take on rivals Liverpool in the battle for 26-year-old Downing, suggests the Frenchman still hopes Arsenal can seriously compete for the Premier League title next season.
His transfer movements also suggest a wider change in approach.
In Downing, Jagielka, and Cahill, Wenger has chosen the best of England's next generation to replace the departing Europeans. Downing especially has a preference for getting to the byline and crossing that is markedly different to Arsenal's traditional obsession with keeping the ball on the ground through the middle.
The potential transfers suggest that Wenger is changing his policy in a bid to finally return winning ways to north London.

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