Arsenal lead the chase for Red Bulls' American Ream

Arsenal will this week send representatives to watch the United States international defender Tim Ream in the Major League Soccer playoffs as the club's manager, Arsène Wenger, considers his options ahead of the January transfer window.

Wenger is understood to have seen a £2.5m bid for the 24-year-old centre-back rejected by his current side, New York Red Bulls, during the summer, but he has continued to monitor the progress of the player who remains a candidate to move to the Emirates Stadium in January.

Ream, who made his debut for the US national team in November last year and has won seven full caps, will join his Red Bulls team-mates at FC Dallas tonight for the club's wild-card playoff match and a number of Premier League clubs are expected to have scouts present.

Both Everton and West Bromwich Albion have been linked with the player – formerly with Chicago Fire and a cornerstone of the Red Bulls side since his move to New York last year – in recent months, while several French sides have also tracked his progress.

Arsenal's chief executive, Ivan Gazidis, has consistently reiterated that Wenger has funds at his disposal to strengthen the club's squad should he wish to do so, but it remains to be seen whether the Frenchman's uncharacteristic late August spree – bringing in Mikel Arteta, Per Mertesacker, Park Chu-young and Andre Santos after the departures of Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas – heralded a break from his usual transfer policy or was simply a reaction to an impending crisis.

A disappointing start to the Premier League campaign, though, may force Wenger's hand, and the centre of Arsenal's defence – despite the recruitment of Mertesacker from Werder Bremen – remains a weak point.

Injuries continue to plague Thomas Vermaelen and Johan Djourou, while Sébastien Squillaci seems to have fallen out of favour this campaign after an inconsistent career in north London. Such a paucity of resources leaves Wenger short of cover for Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny.

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