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Arsenal will let Mikel Arteta spend but face battle to land Dusan Vlahovic | Arsenal

Arsenal will let Mikel Arteta spend significantly to improve his squad in this transfer window if the right players become available, but they face a battle to land the Fiorentina forward Dusan Vlahovic.

Arteta wants a midfielder and a striker, with depth in the former position a priority after Ainsley Maitland-Niles was allowed to join Roma on loan for the rest of the season. The addition of Vlahovic, a hugely sought-after centre-forward who has scored 16 goals in Serie A this season, would be a more extravagant flexing of Arsenal’s muscles and they are making efforts to exploit the Serb’s precarious situation in Italy. Vlahovic has rejected an extension to his contract, which expires in 2023, and Fiorentina will need to cash in on their prize asset before next season.

Interest in Vlahovic from Europe’s wealthier clubs is significant and, even if Arsenal put together a viable package this month, they would face several obstacles in completing a potentially complicated deal. One of them is that Vlahovic would need persuading to join a club in their fifth season without Champions League football, although they are fourth in the Premier League and poised to push hard for a return to Europe’s elite competition.

Asked on Friday whether Arsenal would try to close a deal for someone of Vlahovic’s standing in the current window, Arteta said: “I think with the amount of things, and the way that we want to evolve the squad, we have to maximise every window in many different ways and we are alert. Edu [the sporting director] and his team are working very hard, as we know exactly what we need to do. Whether we can accomplish that in January or the summer is a different question as it is related to other stuff.

“If it is the right player and we can afford it, and we can do what we want to do, we will discuss it and make the best possible decision. We are open.”

Arsenal’s need for a striker has been heightened by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s exile from the squad, although the fact Eddie Nketiah and Alexandre Lacazette will be able to leave for free in the summer had already made it a key position to strengthen.

If necessary Arsenal can postpone an attacking arrival until the summer but it is not so simple in midfield, where Maitland-Niles’s departure and the participation of Thomas Partey and Mohamed Elneny at the Africa Cup of Nations mean Granit Xhaka and Albert Sambi Lokonga are the only senior players available.

“We are going to move and look for options because we are very short there,” Arteta admitted, although he ruled out a short-term deal for Jack Wilshere. The former Arsenal midfielder is training at the club but, despite a clamour among sections of the fanbase, will not be signed as cover. “I think I was very clear with the situation with Jack and the role that he was going to have being around here and we continue the same way,” he said.

Arsenal visit Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup third round on Sunday and will wear a one-off all-white kit as part of their “No More Red” initiative to combat knife crime. Any benefit from three more days’ rest after the postponement of Thursday’s Carabao Cup semi-final first leg with Liverpool may be minimal. Arteta said a mixture of “Covid and injuries” would restrict his options and that his squad was “really short in numbers” but they intend to play the tie.

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