EPL

Arteta insists Arsenal can still attract world's best players amid Vlahovic rumours

By Sports Desk January 12, 2022

Mikel Arteta insists Arsenal still have the pulling power to attract the world's biggest names, but refused to be drawn on speculation linking his side with Fiorentina striker Dusan Vlahovic.

The Gunners have been tipped to move for the in-demand Serbia international, who matched Cristiano Ronaldo's 21st century record for the most Serie A goals in a single calendar year in 2021 with 33.

Vlahovic has also been touted as a target for Juventus, Manchester City and Manchester United, though Arsenal are said to be willing to spend big to land the 21-year-old, who has 18 months to run on his contract.

However, according to fresh reports on Wednesday, Vlahovic will only consider joining the north London club should they qualify for next season's Champions League after a five-year absence.

Arsenal have not placed higher than fifth in the Premier League since then and have finished eighth in back-to-back campaigns, but Arteta does not believe the Gunners' plight will put players off moving to Emirates Stadium.

"Historically this club has always been targeting the best players in the world and they were always interested to come here," he said at a news conference on Wednesday. "I can say that hasn't changed. 

"Every time I've spoken to a player they were so willing to come. That's a big advantage for us."

Vlahovic has 16 goals in 20 Serie A games for Fiorentina this season alone, making him the joint-fourth highest goalscorer in Europe's top five leagues behind Karim Benzema, Patrik Schick (both 17) and Robert Lewandowski (20).

Fiorentina are reportedly holding out for a €70million (£58m) fee, but Arteta would not comment specifically on his side's interest in the young attacker.

"I'm really sorry to disappoint you but you know I'm not going to be discussing any transfer rumours," he said when asked about the latest on Vlahovic.

"What I really want this month is that we have as many players fit and healthy and we do as much as possible with these players. After that we have a strategy and we will do that when possible."

Arsenal suffered a shock 1-0 loss to Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup third round on Sunday and will be looking to hit back when they take on Liverpool on Thursday in a rescheduled EFL Cup semi-final first leg.

Last week's fixture was called off after a COVID-19 outbreak forced Liverpool to shut their training ground, but Jurgen Klopp has since revealed a number of the cases were false positives.

The first leg will now take place at Anfield, with the return fixture set for Emirates Stadium next week, and Arteta will also have one eye on Sunday's Premier League trip to Tottenham.

"The dynamics have changed because the timing of the games becomes different," the Spaniard said. "It's completely uncertain but it's what it is.

"Last week's game being called off is something that is not in our control. The EFL is responsible to check every player's status and make the decision whether to play or not.

"You can never guarantee anything because you know that this changes dramatically in 10 seconds. Our willingness is always to play."

Arsenal, who will find out on Wednesday whether Granit Xhaka is clear to play after recently testing positive for coronavirus, have won just one of their last eight EFL Cup games against Liverpool at Anfield.

This is the third successive season the sides have met in the competition, while the last five meetings have produced a total of 28 goals.

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