Arsenal handed boost as top Vermaelen replacement target is left out of pre-season squad

Arsenal have reportedly been lining up Olympiacos defender Kostas Manolas as a replacement for Thomas Vermaelen - and could be close to a deal.

The Gunners have made a strong effort to keep the positivity around the club flowing this summer having won their first trophy in nine years back in May, and that has mostly involved new signings. Goalkeeper David Ospina, right backs Mathieu Debuchy and Calum Chambers as well as forward Alexis Sanchez have all arrived at the Emirates Stadium, and the optimism around Arsenal continued with their 3-0 win over Manchester City in the Community Shield on Sunday.

More business needs to be done though, with holding midfield and centre forward areas of concern for supporters, but the priority for now is centre back. Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker have established a strong partnership in the heart of the Arsenal defence, but after the £15m sale of Thomas Vermaelen to Barcelona, manager Arsene Wenger needs to add depth behind his first choice pairing.

It was revealed on Tuesday that Olympiacos defender Kostas Manolas was Arsenal's top target after the 23-year-old starred at the World Cup for Greece, and reports suggested that talks had been opened between the two clubs over a possible £8m deal for Manolas.

Now, the Gunners have been handed a huge boost in their pursuit of the former AEK Athens youngster after Olympiacos took the decision to drop Manolas from the squad entirely for their friendly against Athletic Bilbao on Wednesday night. The line from the club is that Manolas has an injury, but it's believed that he's been pulled out of the squad because he's nearing a move elsewhere.

We saw a similar situation with Sevila's Alberto Moreno on Tuesday, as the left back was left out of the squad in order to secure a move to Liverpool. Now, Manolas could be moving ever closer to a move to North London, and he looks to be the perfect player to sit and learn behind Koscielny and Mertesacker before eventually breaking into the starting XI on a regular basis.

Additionally, selling Vermaelen - who had no future at the club - for £15m and buying a younger replacement for around half of that would be exceptional business from Wenger; particularly having seen so many defenders go for big money this summer, such as Luke Shaw, Eliaquim Mangala and David Luiz.

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