Arsenal lead chase for Olivier Giroud


French champions Montpellier say that Arsenal are closing in on the signing of their prize asset Olivier Giroud.

The striker has attracted the interest of a plethora of top European clubs after a season of eye-catching performances, but it is Arsène Wenger who is leading the race for the 25-year-old, according to his manager Ren Girard.

"Arsenal are very interested and Giroud wants to play in England. If Arsène agrees [a fee] with the president, he will sign for them," Girard told French radio station RMC.

Giroud is currently away at Euro 2012 with France and was an unused substitute in their 1-1 draw with England on Monday. He will consider his future after the tournament. Giroud scored 21 league goals for Montpellier last season, helping to fire the unfancied club to a first Ligue 1 title in their history.

Reports that the clubs have agreed a fee are thought to be wide of the mark. In fact, it is thought they have not yet begun haggling over the transfer's value, with Montpellier hoping to take Marouane Chamakh on loan as part of the deal.

That means Wenger has bargaining power and will offer less than the release clause of £12.8m for the player, although Girard is unsure as to whether he can entice the Moroccan: "We would like Chamakh on loan, as part of the Giroud deal, but I don't know if it is possible."

Since signing at the Emirates two years ago on a free transfer, Chamakh has failed to settle in the Premier League and scored only once for the Gunners last season.

The striker said earlier last season that it was his desire to stay in the England. Whether that has now changed remains to be seen, given that he has played only five times since the turn of the year.

If they fail to land Chamakh, Montpellier may hold out for the full fee, given that Giroud has two years remaining on his contract, while Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis wants to restructure the wage bill. Chamakh is a relative high-earner and the arrival of Lukas Podolski pushes him further down the pecking order.