The Gunners are reportedly leading the Premier League interest in on-loan Roma defender Chris Smalling. The 30-year-old has settled in well to life in Rome, where he has become first choice and put in some impressive shifts, with a number of English sides said to be keen on giving him a chance back in his home country.
Smalling was forced to explore pastures new after becoming sidelined at Old Trafford by manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, and he has taken his chance in Serie A, scoring twice in 14 league appearances and helping to keep eight clean sheets. According to The Sun, the Gunners are big admirers of Smalling, and after having their own defensive issues in the last few seasons, a new centre back will be high on the wishlist of whoever succeeds Unai Emery as manager.
It is believed Arsenal have been keeping tabs on the English defender since his move to Italy and that they like what they see, with the north Londoners keen to bring him to the Emirates next summer. The club reportedly had scouts present at the San Siro on Friday to watch Smalling keep a clean sheet against rivals Inter Milan, while England coaching duo Gareth Southgate and Steve Holland were also present to keep up on his progress. Arsenal will have competition from a host of other Premier League outfits for Smalling’s signature, with Everton and Leicester also said to be keen on making a move when his loan move ends next summer.
Smalling joined Manchester United from Fulham in 2010 and has gone on to star 323 times for the Red Devils, winning two Premier League titles, the FA Cup, EFL Cup and the Europa League. With Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof currently the first choice partnership in defence at the club, Smalling’s future looks unclear and United could cash in on him next year as a result, with plenty of young competition coming from the likes of Axel Tuanzebe. Smalling has enjoyed his Italian spell on the pitch thus far, but he was the subject of controversial headline by a news outlet in the country ahead of the game with Inter, as Corriere dello Sport used the words ‘Black Friday’ to promote the game.
The Roma defender featured on the cover alongside Inter’s Romelu Lukaku, a former United team-mate. The paper defended their front page and said they had been campaigning against racism for centuries, but Smalling said their choice of words were ‘wrong and insensitive’, calling on the editors to reflect on their actions. Reports in Italy have added that Roma are themselves keen to finalise a permanent deal, should United allow him to leave the club on a permanent basis.