By Wayne Veysey | Chief Correspondent
Arsenal are preparing to make Mohamed Diame their first signing of the January window, Goal.com understands.
Arsene Wenger is set to make a final check on the West Ham midfielder on Wednesday night before giving the go-ahead for the Gunners to trigger the £3.5 million release clause in his contract.
Arsenal face competition from Tottenham and a string of other Premier League clubs in the race for the Senegal international, who has been offered an improved contract by the Hammers but has yet to put pen to paper on a new deal.
The north Londoners have registered their interest in Diame after Goal.com revealed the club had identified him as a target in early December.
At his media briefing on Tuesday morning ahead of Arsenal’s home match against West Ham, Wenger admitted he is an admirer of the midfield powerhouse.
“He has a great presence in the games, I have seen him have a big impact,” said Wenger.
West Ham want to raise the buy-out clause written in Diame’s contract to £9m after he joined the Hammers on a free from Wigan Athletic last summer.
Wenger regards Diame as good value and has been biding his time while the midfield anchorman recovers from the hamstring injury that he sustained in West Ham’s defeat against Liverpool on December 9.
Wenger’s scouts have been closely monitoring the fitness of Diame, who returned to the team last week, playing 65 minutes in the FA Cup defeat at Manchester United and then a full 90 minutes in the 1-1 draw at QPR last Saturday.
Arsenal want a midfielder who can come straight into the team and make an immediate impact.
Arsenal are yet to make any January signings but remain in the market for a striker, a goalkeeper and a central midfielder.
Arsenal made an enquiry for Wigan midfielder James McCarthy earlier this month, but were put off by the £10m asking price.