Arsenal line up Davids

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The Independent Football

Arsenal are believed to have completed the signing of the Juventus midfielder Edgar Davids, for a fee of around £9m. The transfer is not expected to be made official until the end of the month, however, because the Turin club will be needing the player in the next two weeks. The Italian transfer window closes from 27 October until January and Juventus are reluctant to release Davids until they are sure they have found a replacement for him.

Arsenal are believed to have completed the signing of the Juventus midfielder Edgar Davids, for a fee of around £9m. The transfer is not expected to be made official until the end of the month, however, because the Turin club will be needing the player in the next two weeks. The Italian transfer window closes from 27 October until January and Juventus are reluctant to release Davids until they are sure they have found a replacement for him.

Ever since the departure of Emmanuel Petit during the summer, the Arsenal manager, Arsÿne Wenger, has been anxious to replace the influential French midfielder with a player of similar status. Now he appears to have found his man. Davids, 29, is widely regarded as being one of the best, and most experienced, defensive midfielders in the world. The Holland international, who has played for Ajax, Milan and Juventus, is also seen as the ideal player to partner Patrick Vieira in the heart of the Arsenal midfield. Davids, once viewed as the bad boy of Dutch football, has matured considerably in the last couple of years and would be a calming influence on the 24-year-old Vieira.

Thierry Henry, the Arsenal striker and a long-standing friend of Vieira, spoke yesterday of the importance of having the Frenchman back in the team. "He's the boss," Henry said. "He's a real battler. The only player who has ever made such an impression on me is Davids, although he is a little less elegant on the ball." It will not be long now before the two line up side-by-side.

One potential stumbling block to the transfer was the fact that Davids had already played for Juventus in this season's Champions' League, thus preventing him from appearing for the Gunners until the second group phase. But with qualification almost ensured - Arsenal lead their group with nine points - the need for Davids to play in European games is less pressing than it might have been.

Highbury is not the only corner of London that has successfully fallen under French influence. Across town in the south-west, Fulham are sailing along in the First Division under the leadership of Jean Tigana, doing a passable impression of a side heading into the Premiership. Nine matches, nine wins - their record cannot be faulted at this early stage of the season.

The Frenchman's managerial methods and insistence on hard work to underpin the style will be put to the test today by Graeme Souness' Blackburn Rovers, whose visit is expected to attract Craven Cottage's biggest crowd of the season.

The doubters still counsel caution about Fulham under their innovative manager, and Fulham's goalkeeper, Maik Taylor, is at a loss to combat them. He said: "There are still some people who say you can't get promotion by playing football - so I don't know what more we can do to prove them wrong. But we will keep on playing, and also keep on doing extra training. There may have been a few moans early on, but not now. Every one of us is feeling great at the moment, full of confidence and happy with the way we are playing as a team."

Louis Saha, the scorer of 10 goals this season, has recovered from a knee injury and will start while the midfielder Sean Davis is also in contention after shaking off a calf injury.

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