Arsenal are preparing a summer move for Everton defender John Stones, according to the Metro.
The Gunners are in the market for a defender to play back-up to Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny, with Thomas Vermaelen set to leave the club after the end of the season. The 19-year-old has impressed with his performances for Everton and has been earmarked by manager Arsene Wenger as a major prospect.
However, the move may scupper if Arsenal fail to make it to the fourth spot, with the Toffees only one point behind them with a game in hand. Should Everton win their remaining games in the league, which include the likes of Manchester City, Southampton and Manchester United, they will dethrone Wenger's record of finishing in a top four spot every year since his arrival at Arsenal in 1996.
The defender impressed with his performance against Arsenal in their 3-0 win at Goodison Park last weekend and has been a good back-up for Phil Jagielka, who is out injured. Tall, fast and assured on the ball, Stones has the potential to be among the best defenders in the country and the Toffees will be hoping that they can pip Arsenal to the fourth spot and prevent a mass exodus of players.
The Gunners have failed to live up to their expectations this season, having lead the Premier League for the majority of the first half but succumbed to some shabby displays at Liverpool and Chelsea where they were humiliated on all quarters. The results had a psychological effect on their performances which have gone from poor to worse in the last couple of months.
Injuries to key players have had their toll, with the likes of Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil, Theo Walcott and Jack Wilshere all nursing injuries during a crucial period in their season. Ramsey is back after missing three months, where he scored 13 goals in all competitions and was among the frontrunners for the PFA Player of the Year Award.