By Will Butcher
Arsenal have opened preliminary talks with Barcelona to sign out-of-favour defender Jeremy Mathieu, according to a report.
Manager Arsene Wenger is looking to bolster the Gunners’ centre-back ranks after a spate of pre-season injuries have left them without Per Mertesacker and Gabriel for the opening months of the season.
French broadcaster SFR Sport have claimed that the Gunners have been in talks with the Spanish giants in recent days about a deal to land Mathieu.
The 32-year-old has made 75 appearances for Barcelona after signing from Valencia for £17.2million in 2014, chipping in with three goals.
He was in advanced talks to join Besiktas but suspended negotiations last month following the Turkey attempted coup on 15 July.
Mathieu has two years remaining on his Barcelona deal but the club will listen to offers for him this summer after signing Samuel Umtiti, who is also a left sided centre-back, from Lyon for £21million.
With Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano the established centre-back pairing at Camp Nou, Mathieu is likely to have a bit-part role if he stayed at the club.
The north London side are likely to resort to starting former Bolton youngster Rob Holding who moved to the Emirates this summer, who is set to partner Laurent Koscielny.
The Gunners are also reportedly interested in signing Valencia centre-back Shkodran Mustafi, who could be set for his second spell in England following a three-year stay with Everton.
Gazzetta Dello Sport and Tribal Football journalist Emmanuele Giulianelli said Mustafi has agreed personal terms with the Gunners and that a deal between the clubs was just £2.6million to £4.3million apart.
Mustafi: apparently Arsenal bid wasn't accepted! But very close agreement between clubs, still €3-5m apart. He has agreed personal terms.
— Emanuele Giulianelli (@EmaGiulianelli) August 11, 2016
In other Arsenal transfer news, Juventus want to make a sensation bid to sign this former Gunners star to replace Paul Pogba.