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NRM #2: Villa, Higuain & Elm Targeted?

The rumor mill has taken us down a few unexpected paths this week with rumors circulating over the future of Arsenal captain, Thomas Vermaelen. According to the Daily Mail, Arsenal are in talks with Swansea City over acquiring centre-back Ashley Williams who would directly replace Vermaelen, but is this a good idea? If the Gunners are to get rid of their captain, is Williams the best choice to take his squad place? As a first choice starter possibly not but despite being Arsenal captain, Thomas Vermaelen is no longer a guaranteed starter and we may well be talking about replacing Vermaelen as third choice. Ashley Williams has already secured his place in the hearts of many Gooners with an almost "fatal" ball to the head of Van Persie.

Late in the season, and after a string of unconvincing and error-strewn performances Vermaelen was swiftly put to the back of Wenger's mind as Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker performed beautifully as Arsenal's first choice pairing. The improved defensive stability helped Arsenal challenge for the final automatic Champions League spot and seal it through a Koscielny goal (ironic, huh?). In the end, it would make complete sense for the Belgian to remain at the Emirates for a bit longer; however, the risk of not featuring in Arsène Wenger's starting XI would beg the questoin whether or not he will feature for his national squad.

Arsenal's next target may not the most well-known player in football, but as we all know Wenger drums to his own tune - and it certainly has paid dividends over the years with Champions League football an almost permanent fixture at Arsenal since Wenger's arrival. Reports suggest that Wenger could secure Swedish midfielder Rasmus Elm. The current CSKA Moscow man would offer a heightened sense of stability in the centre of the pitch as Abou Diaby continues to struggle with injuries and Jack Wilshere still to find his best and most effective role in this new look Arsenal team. Elm is currently under contract until 2015 yet that being said, if the Gunners truly want him the Swede's price is rumored to be a snip at around €12 million. Although the links with Elm seem to be becoming increasingly more frequent, he does not seem an ideal fit for Arsenal.

Elm does bring goals along with him but in the grand scheme of things, Arsenal are in search for a defensive minded midfielder – a role Elm is found lacking, especially in the "toughness" department. As we note Elm's strengths and weaknesses, we must also consider the possible switch of the aforementioned Vermaelen, into a more advanced defensive position. A switch to a deep-lying midfield/defensive midfield position paid dividends for Chelsea as Rafa Benitez moved Brazilian defender, David Luiz, into a deep-lying midfield role. A role that Wenger may want to consider Vermaelen for, instead of simply letting the Belgian move on.

After a failed attempt to sign David Villa in the January transfer window, Arsenal's gaze has not entirely left La Liga in its search for new striker options. David Villa is still rumored to be a target, however this time Arsenal's sights seem trained on Real Madrid striker, Gonzalo Higuain. The Argentine has played at the Santiago Bernabeu for the past six seasons and having failed to become a regular started it may be time to move onto greener playing time pastures. The reported asking price according to Pro Soccer Talk for the Argentine frontman is around £15 million which would subsequently eclipse Arsenal's previous transfer fee.

Higuain provides pace, and a real knack for goal. Although Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott have both been tested this past season in the striking positions, both have failed to deliver the scoring figures Gooners feel is needed to propel them to the next level. However, it must be noted that Giroud's strike rate for a first season in England is not to be sniffed at and Walcott continues to improve and with his blistering pace it is only a matter of time before he racks up 20+ in the league. For the time being however, Higuain could serve as the best option for Arsenal to reignite their attack and deliver the bounty of striker goals Arsenal require. With the chances created by the Arsenal midfield, the current Real Madrid man's high-output would certainly be welcomed at the Emirates this summer.

Having qualified yet again for the Champions League on the last day of the Premier League season, the current Arsenal squad shows real promise. With a brilliant core to build on, just a few changes and additions this summer could turn Arsenal from Champions League hopefuls to conquerors of Europe and the Premier League once again. In the meantime, let the rumors flow where they may, and for the Gooners out there desiring some new faces at the Emirates - sign em' up!

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