John Stones
John Stones is being hunted by Arsenal Getty

Arsenal have identified John Stones as the man to strengthen their midfield for the long-term and are set to join the race to sign the England international. The 21-year-old has been in brilliant form over the year, which has all but earned him a spot in Roy Hodgson's squad to travel to France, for the European Championships scheduled next year.

According to the Mirror, Wenger is ready to splash the cash for the defender, who is expected to be available for an excess of £30m ($45m) after Chelsea had multiple bids rejected for the player last summer. Manchester United are also interested in securing his services, with Louis van Gaal having earmarked the player as a long-term successor for their defensive pairing of Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand.

The Gunners have a settled back four at the moment -- with Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny -- and the two have displayed good defensive performances so far for the Gunners. The north London club have conceded only 10 goals in the campaign and have Gabriel and Calum Chambers as backup in case of emergency, but the latter is more suited to a midfield role, as has been recently stated by Wenger following an injury to Francis Coquelin.

Wenger is already looking at the long-term future of his back four, with both Mertesacker and Koscielny entering their 30s, and in Stones he has someone who is good on the ball and can build attacks from the back. The Frenchman is not unwilling to splash the cash in January, but Everton have issued a hands-off warning to rival clubs stating that they will not entertain any offers in the upcoming transfer window.

The defender will be difficult to prise away next summer, with reports suggesting that Barcelona are also interested bringing him to the Camp Nou. The 66-year-old, however, will be desperately looking to strengthen his midfield in the absence of Coquelin, given that he does not want to use Aaron Ramsey in that position.

Moreover, Wenger believes that using Santi Cazorla and Aaron Ramsey together in the base of midfield unbalances the team and that he would rather have someone like Chambers alongside to hold fort in front of the back four.