According to pundit Steve Nicol, Chris Smalling is set to leave Manchester United this summer and Arsenal will make a move to sign the England centre-back.
Nicol, who spent 13 years at Liverpool in the 80s and 90s, discussed the possibility of a move during the ESPN FC programme.
Victor Lindelof’s £31m switch from Benfica effectively means that at least one of United’s centre-backs will be sold this summer, and Phil Jones’ comments seem as though he’ll remain for now at least.
West Ham are reportedly keen on the 27-year-old and could prepare an initial bid of £10m.
As quoted by the Daily Star Nicol said, “If I’m an Arsenal fan, I’m thinking ‘hold on a second’, are we a place for United’s cast-offs?
“And that’s not to be harsh on Danny Welbeck and Smalling, but it’s just a fact. Smalling may be in the England team but I don’t think he’s in a side that has a chance to win a Premier League, a Champions League, or anything else,” Nicol continued.
“So I see this happening, because Arsenal need centre-backs. They’ve got some injury problems, even though we are still way, way short of the season starting. I think Smalling will end up at Arsenal.”
I could understand Nichol and his comments, up until the final paragraph or so. It’s as if he’s completely forgotten that the 27-year-old has already won the Premier League twice before, in 2011 and 2013.
That’s before mentioning his belief that the Gunners need centre-backs. Really? It’s not a necessity and with Calum Chambers to return, Arsenal have depth in a backline which showed potential towards the end of last season.
Gabriel (knee) aside, Arsenal will have five fit centre-backs ready to feature in pre-season next month. Why do they need anymore?
United are believed to want around £15m for the England international and teams like Arsenal as well as the aforementioned West Ham could try and take advantage by offering a cut-price fee.
It wouldn’t make sense for the Gunners to pursue him though, unless they were interested in making Smalling a first-choice.
After the poor season he’s had, the move would be a backwards one from Arsenal’s perspective.
Besides, Jose Mourinho has already made it perfectly clear he will not sell to Arsenal unless he’s forced to.