After Arsenal scouts watched Ashley Williams play for Swansea in their Europa League qualifier against Malmo it seems clear that the 28-year-old is still very much in the Gunners’ sights and defensive injury issues at the Emirates may just encourage Arsene Wenger to splash the cash required to bring him in.
The murmurs and mutterings linking Arsenal – 16/1 to win the Premier League with a +8 point handicap – with a swoop for Swansea skipper Ashley Williams have been around all summer long, with the Liberty Stadium outfit’s asking price of £12m seemingly the deal’s principal stumbling block – the London club believe a £10m valuation is more realistic.
The Gunners had the Premier League’s second most parsimonious defence last term, but beyond Per Mertersacker and Laurent Koscielny they have strength in depth issues at centre half, with Thomas Vermaelen well below his best during 2012/13 and Johann Djourou loaned to Hamburg.
Williams has risen through the divisions with the Swans – having signed for them back in 2008 – and his superb leadership skills have been recognised with the reward of the captain’s armband for his native Wales.
His passionate, whole-hearted style – he topped the Premier League for blocks last term, with 11 more than his nearest rival – could benefit Arsenal on and off the pitch, with the Gunners never having truly replaced inspirational figures like Tony Adams and Martin Keown and seemingly short on big characters.
Furthermore, having been a key member of the Swansea team – who are 18/5 to claim victory in their season opener against Manchester United – during their evolution into an Arsenal-like passing and possession-based side, Williams should have the comfort on the ball that Wenger would ideally require from his defenders.
In addition his defensive awareness is hard to question, with only Aston Villa’s Matt Lowton (111) making more interceptions in Premier League action last term.
Although a deal for Williams had seemed to have gone the way of the dodo as the transfer window wore on, news that Thomas Vermaelen will be out for six weeks with a back injury may give Arsenal the encouragement they need to stump up the extra £2m that Swansea are understood to want for a player that has just been given the club captain honour in South Wales.