Arsenal close in on Lille’s Gabriel Magalhães as Freddie Ljungberg departs

Arsenal are increasingly confident that they have beaten Napoli to the signing of Gabriel Magalhães, the coveted Lille centre-back, and feel optimistic of completing a deal quickly.
The 22-year-old has been the subject of intense interest in recent weeks after an excellent season in Ligue 1, with Manchester City and Manchester United also among those watching developments. But Arsenal and Napoli emerged as frontrunners last week, with the Premier League side having a €24m (£21.6m) bid accepted and waiting to see whether the Brazil under-20 international would warm to their interest.
An agreement between player and club is now close and Arsenal believe the transfer could be completed soon. Nonetheless there will remain doubts until Gabriel has signed, given the number of clubs in the picture. Gabriel was left out of the side for Lille’s first match of the 2020-21 season, against Rennes on Saturday, with his move drawing closer.
Napoli would view him as a replacement for Kalidou Koulibaly, who has been linked with City, but Arsenal’s interest and ability to complete the deal are clearer-cut given its lack of dependence on other developments.
While Arsenal hope to welcome Gabriel in the near future, they have said goodbye to one of their assistant coaches, Freddie Ljungberg. The Swede wants to fulfil his long-held ambition of a role in management and all parties have amicably agreed it is in his best interests to move on.
Ljungberg enjoyed a glittering nine-year spell as a player under Arsène Wenger and went on to coach their under-15s. After a spell at Wolfsburg in 2017 he returned to Arsenal the following year. His brief was initially to oversee the under-23s but last summer he became a first-team coach and in November stepped up as caretaker manager for six games after Unai Emery’s dismissal.
While he has remained part of the senior setup under Mikel Arteta, the new manager brought in Steve Round and Albert Stuivenberg to supplement his coaching staff in December. Ljungberg, who is highly rated and has attracted interest from elsewhere, will now seek to exert greater influence as the number one at another club.
Meanwhile, Arteta is preparing to clear the decks in a bid to balance Arsenal’s books and give himself some more room to move in the transfer market, reports Arteta could make up to 15 players available to leave the Emirates Stadium before the transfer window slams shut in October.
The north London club have spent just £14 million so far and a deal for 22-year-old Gabriel would take their outlay to just shy of £40 million.
If Gabriel is signed, Arteta will begin the overhaul of his squad at the back, where he will have a raft of options with William Saliba having returned from a season on loan at Saint-Etienne and David Luiz having signed a one-year contract extension.
Napoli will move for the Gunners’ Greek international Sokratis Papastathopoulos if, as expected, they miss out on signing Gabriel.
Rob Holding and Calum Chambers, who has been linked with a move to Fulham, have also been told that they are surplus to requirements.
Wolves and arch-rivals Tottenham Hotspur are also both keen on the £20 million-rated Ainsley Maitland-Niles, who has also got Newcastle United watching developments.
Both Lazio and Roma want Uruguayan international Lucas Torreira, who has slipped down Arteta’s pecking order, while Torino and Fiorentina are watching on.
French midfielder Matteo Guendouzi is also set to leave while Alexandre Lacazette could also go after struggling since Arteta took over the Arsenal hot-seat.
Arsenal technical director Edu made it clear after the arrival of 32-year-old winger Willian on a free from Chelsea earlier this month that the club are looking to rebalance their squad.
“We tried to create a better balance in the squad but we know that takes time to balance the squad the way me and Mikel [Arteta] want to,” he said.
“To balance properly, we need to sell players, to buy players and that takes time, not just day and night.
“It will take time but with Willian, we’ve started a big process. We’ve identified the needs in the squad and he’s the one to start to rebalance the squad as we want to.
“I am really excited and really happy to have a player like Willian because I’m convinced he’ll be the one to impact the team straight away.

“That, for me, is the most important one because I think the squad needed a player like Willian to help them, to be with the guys, helping in all senses. That’s why I’m so excited.”
While Arsenal boss Arteta said after the win over Chelsea in the FA Cup final at the start of August: “I have presented my vision and my plans and all together we will try our best to get the club in the best possible position.
“I know how important it was [to win the FA Cup] as we needed to be in Europe.
“It is a must for our club and financially because it is a bigger step forward in order to allow us to do more things in the future and have a better structure financially.
“I am very pleased for both things – winning the trophy and having the option to play in Europe.”

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