Arsenal may have been handed a possible boost in their quest to sign Sheffield United midfielder Sander Berge this summer after Blades interim boss Paul Heckingbottom confirmed he will not play again this season.
After what has proven to be a below-par campaign for the Gunners, manager Mikel Arteta, with help from technical director Edu, is poised to make mass changes at the Emirates Stadium this summer, in terms of both new faces arriving at the club and players leaving.
football.london understand that the Gunners are hoping to add at least five new players to the first-team squad this summer, including a left-back and a central attacking-midfielder, with Arteta determined to avoid a repeat of this campaign.
But as well as wanting to add a new central attacking-midfielder to the squad this summer, which the Gunners hope will be on-loan Real Madrid ace Martin Odegaard, a more defensive-minded, box-to-box-type player could be required as well.
That is because fellow on-loan Real Madrid midfielder Dani Ceballos is poised to return to the Bernabeu at the end of the season after spending the last two seasons on loan in north London.
As well as Ceballos being poised to return to his homeland, football.london also understands that Matteo Guendouzi, Lucas Torreira and Ainsley Maitland-Niles are all set to be available to leave the club this summer, meaning the Gunners could find themselves short on midfielders.
However, Arteta is already identifying targets to try and change that, with Sheffield United midfield ace Berge on his wish list. The Norwegian is also believed to be on Everton’s radar and, according to Sky Sports, will be available for £35million this summer following the Blades’ relegation to the Championship.
Despite being considered as one of United’s best players, perhaps their star asset, he has not featured as much as he would have liked this season because of a serious hamstring injury, which has sidelined him for three months.
But after making his return almost a fortnight ago and featuring in United’s last three games, the former Genk man will not play again this season, with caretaker boss Heckingbottom confirming that he will not be risked against Everton, Newcastle United or Burnley.
“Sander [Berge] has picked up a little niggle in the last game, so we will have to assess him between now and the end of the season, but we won’t take any risk,” said Heckingbottom, as quoted by our sister title Yorkshire Live.
“With Sander, let me stress, it’s nothing to do with his previous injury, that’s 100% fine, but just the nature of being out for so long and he’s been pushing himself to be back fit. He’s played moments in games for us and has picked up natural other niggles that comes along with it.
“So we won’t be risking him. If he is fit, fine no problem, but this stage of the season, where we are and the fact he has been out for such a long period of time and worked really hard to come back we won’t risk him between now and the end of the season.”
But United’s reluctance to hand Berge an opportunity to impress and try and end what has been a disappointing season for himself and the club on a high could be a massive boost to Arsenal’s hopes of signing him this summer.
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That is because United may feel that if they do allow Berge to play in their final three matches and he gets injured, Arsenal, as well as any other suitors, could be put off from launching a big-money move.
Therefore, with Berge set to remain out of the firing line, he can work himself back towards his peak fitness levels and not, potentially, be injured when arriving at a new club in the summer, should he move on from Bramall Lane.
Berge has made just 16 appearances in all competitions this season, scoring one goal.