Michael Laudrup has played down speculation linking Ashley Williams with Arsenal.
Arsene Wenger is likely to enter the transfer market to bolster his defensive options in the summer, as he looks for the right formula in the heart of his back four. His present choices would seem fairly rich, with Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker and Thomas Vermaelen all seasoned internationals with France, Germany and Belgium respectively.
However, the Gunners coach has recognised that he needs a natural leader to organise his back four, in much the way the likes of Tony Adams, Martin Keown and Steve Bould did in days long gone by. It has been suggested he was keen to find this player in January, but with the mid-season window notoriously difficult, he was unable to do so.
Earlier this month, widespread reports claimed Wenger would look to solve the problem in the summer by lodging a bid for Wales international Williams. The 28-year-old has established himself as one of the best centre-halves in the Premier League, and last month he captained Swansea City to Capital One Cup glory at Wembley.
The former Hednesford Town and Stockport County player joined the Swans on an initial loan deal in March 2008, and two months later made the move permanent for a bargain £400,000. Five years later, Arsenal are reportedly prepared to pay as much as £8million for his signature. But whilst this would represent a fantastic return on their outlay, Laudrup would rather keep a player who remains under contract until 2015.
“When there are rumours about these clubs wanting someone from here it is because the player has done well – and Ashley has,” the Danish told the Daily Mirror. “What else can I do? I can’t call Arsenal and say ‘is it true?’ and I don’t think Arsene Wenger would tell my anyway, he has other things to think about. It’s just part of the game.
“We will have to cope with these stories and remember it means people have seen what we have done here and what the players have done. He and Chico (Flores, his central defensive partner) have been a great pair. I will be unhappy to lose that pairing next season.”
Laudrup, who recently signed a new deal to keep him at the Liberty Stadium until 2015, is determined to hold onto his key players as he looks to build on the fine progress he had made since succeeding Brendan Rodgers in the summer. As well as their cup success over Bradford City, he looks certain to lead his side to a top-ten Premier League finish.
Although he appears not to be losing any sleep over the Williams speculation, it is something he will likely have to deal with in the coming months. At the same time, he has also already stated that the search for new players has begun, as not only does he plan to continue the progress at home but also looks to make a mark in the UEFA Europa League.