In an interview with the Daily Mirror (I know), Ajax defender/occasional midfielder Jan Vertonghen has said that Arsenal are his preferred destination when he leaves his current club in the summer (which is essentially a certainty). Vertonghen, a former club teammate of Thomas Vermaelen's at Ajax and presently with the Belgian national side, evidently visited the Emirates Stadium as Vermaelen's guest for the 3-0 defeat of AC Milan on March 6, but it appears now that the visit may have been more than friendly.
The Mirror's interview lines up with other recent reports from Holland, and is being quoted in the Metro as well. There's certainly something going on here, but exactly what is up for debate.
First of all, let's see what Vertonghen actually said in the Mirror.
Arsenal are a magnificent club and I hear a lot of good things about English football. If a club of Arsenal’s calibre can reach agreement with Ajax, then I will gladly go over. I have instructed my agent carefully. He knows which clubs I want to join, and Arsenal are one of them.
That's not exactly "ARSENE SAVE ME NOW!" but it certainly is an acknowledgement that he would have interest in playing here. He doesn't rule out other teams, though, he simply expresses an interest in playing for Arsenal. The Metro has basically the same report because they (like me) appear to just be reporting that the Mirror has reported something, since the Vertonghen interview was an exclusive. It does give the interview a bit more credence, though, to have it reported by other sources.
Further weight is given to his statements because they basically echo things that Jan Vertonghen has already said to Dutch television (NOS Sport, specifically). Unfortunately for all of us I can't speak or read Dutch, so I haven't the foggiest what's going on in this interview. Luckily Martijn Stolze (or @hahostolze) did a bit of live translation on Twitter as the interview was airing.
Apologies for the long string of tweets there, but all of the parts are necessary to get the whole story. Alone, neither interview would necessarily say much - the Mirror one because he literally doesn't say much, and the Dutch TV one because I'm relying on translation rather than hearing his words myself. However, combined they are useful. Together they corroborate and amplify each other, and we can begin to put together the parts of the puzzle.
If Jack van Gelder is to be believed (and he is a fairly reliable source around Dutch football, as far as I can tell), there actually have been talks about a deal between the player and Arsenal. He's known to favor coming to England (rather than Spain or Italy or somewhere else, that is), and he dismisses the other main rivals for his signature (Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City, mainly). And he has basically said that if Arsenal come for him, he will sign.
Does this mean he certainly will? No. Arsenal may decide that he is surplus to requirements and go another route, or he may cost more than expected and Arsenal could be priced out. He may change his mind, people do that sometimes. He may be using Arsenal in an attempt to get more money from another team, by making them think they will have to do overpower his desire to wear red in London. Personally though, this sounds like genuine talk to me. Occam's razor doesn't guarantee a correct answer, but the least complicated explanation certainly is that both player and club have legitimate interest. Whether that means Arsenal (with three-to-four good center backs, two good left backs, and a good holding midfielder and two more in the pipeline) will actually bid, I can't guarantee. But it looks very much like this is more than a simple rumor.
Jan Vertonghen says he favors Arsenal, and it appears that Arsenal may favor him. Let's see who pops the question first, if anyone.