Arsenal may be forced to splash out £16million for Lyon's Ghanaian star Mickael Essien to bolster their midfield ranks and ensure they are not beaten in the race for his signature.
Mickael Essien: Arsenal target (ShaunBotteril/GettyImages)
Highbury manager Arsene Wenger is waiting for developments on the futures of Brazilian duo Edu and Gilberto. Gilberto has a back injury which has already kept him out since late September and could finish the rest of his season, while Edu is refusing to sign a new contract.
Sources close to the club believe both outcomes will be negative.
And if neither situation improves soon, Wenger will almost certainly try to sign Essien, a 22-year-old Ghanaian midfielder, who has been attracting interest from across Europe with his impressive form for French League leaders Lyon.
He has caught the eye of Gilles Grimandi, the former Arsenal defender who is now the club's scout in France. Wenger would prefer to wait until the summer to make any move for the player, who is valued at around £17million by Lyon.
But his hand may be forced by the lack of numbers in midfield. Needing reinforcements for the rest of the season, and with Chelsea, Manchester United and Real Madrid also watching Essien closely, Wenger may have to make his move immediately.
Lyon would like to keep Essien, at least until the end of the season, because they are still in the Champions League. But they have shown in the past that they find big-money offers difficult to refuse - as was the case with Steve Marlet and Steed Malbranque who both joined Fulham.
Arsenal are not usually big spenders in the same manner as Manchester United, Chelsea or even Liverpool.
But their record signing, Spaniard Jose Antonio Reyes, signed a year ago out of the blue for what will amount to £16 million - including appearances and achievements - from Sevilla.
And none of Arsenal's three potential competitors for Essien would baulk at the asking price.
Lyon signed Essien two years ago in a £6million deal from Corsican club Bastia after fighting off interest from Paris Saint Germain.
Wenger is expecting news on Gilberto's injury in the next couple of days as the World Cup winner, 28, has recently returned from Brazil, where he has been recuperating from the fractured vertebrae which has kept him sidelined since September 18.
The initial signs are positive but the 28-year-old World Cup winner still faces a long road back to full fitness and is expected to be out until the last month of the Premiership campaign.
'The news I had from the specialist he has seen was rather good,' said Wenger. 'But we want to check that with our own specialist.
'We have to consider that the best of Gilberto could happen in mid-April even if it is positive news.'
That is feckin insane to pay so much money for him. I'd say he's worth around £7-8m. I wonder why wouldn't we just go for Mascherano with the same amount of money, or even Gravesen( 2-3 m) for that matter...
It's all a balancing act. Right now we only have two fit central midfielders in Vieira (is he really fit, though?) and Cesc. If one of them were to pick up an injury in training today, what do we do? I am quite happy to have 5 good players for this crucial position. Moreso, he is still quite young and should be Vieira's eventual replacement.
If he comes, we'll be still having problems in defence and goalkeeping... Another problem would be Cesc not playing anymore(considering Gilberto's return, Fabregas will have to go back to junior team). Bring Casillas with that money!!!!
Vieira. He's a lot like Vieira in the way he plays but he isn't a "new Vieira". As I said, he is a strong tackler like Vieira, gets forward like Vieira and has a rocket shot that Vieira used to have.
And we don't know for certain Gilberto will ever be able to play again. As my thread about Gilberto being back stated, he won't be match fit until late April. Cesc is only seventeen and is playing when he shouldn't be, a signing like Essien would be helpful to Cesc as he is quite frankly, just buggered.