Arsene Wenger Per Mertesacker
Arsene Wenger is looking to give Per Mertesacker some help at the back by reportedly bidding for Athletic Bilbao defender Aymeric LaporteReuters

Apart from looking to sign a striker in the summer transfer window, Arsenal also need to strengthen in various areas of the field, including the defence, with Bacary Sagna leaving and the future of Thomas Vermaelen shrouded in doubt.

Even if Vermaelen stays, Arsene Wenger might look to bring in a central defender as Sagna was the manager's fourth choice for that position. According to the Daily Express, that man could be Aymeric Laporte of Athletic Bilbao, with Wenger reportedly ready to match the massive £30 million buyout clause of the defender.

Laporte had an outstanding season for Bilbao in La Liga, playing 35 games and helping them to a top-four finish.

The U-21 French international defender is rated as one of the best young centre-backs in Europe, with the likes of Manchester United, Barcelona and Bayern Munich all thought to be interested.

United are also considering making a bid for the 20-year-old, while new Barcelona manager Luis Enrique sees Laporte as a perfect replacement for the departed Carles Puyol.

However, Bayern are in pole position to land the highly-rated centre-back with Laporte recently suggesting he would love a move to the Allianz Arena. "It's a dream, Bayern is one of the best teams in the world," he told L'Equipe. "But I'm in Bilbao and I have a buyout clause of €36m.

"Would I consider the option of leaving? I will think, but for now I am calm."

Wenger will have to use his French card and charm to full effect if he is to persuade the talented player to the Emirates; that is of course, if Arsenal are actually prepared to shell out all that money for the youngster.

Meanwhile, a player who will act as Laporte's mentor and partner if he signs for Arsenal – Per Mertesacker – believes earning his teammates' respect is paramount.

Mertesacker was quite impressive last season at the heart of Arsenal's defence, not only running a tight ship at the back but also showing his leadership qualities, and the German international said as long as his teammates believe in him and respect him he will be more than happy, knowing full well how easily a footballer can go from receiving high praise to being criticised for the smallest of mistakes.

"I think it's better if the team respects me and my performances," Mertesacker told Arsenal Player. "That's more important for myself, that I'm well known here.

"I want to help the team and that is my target. Everything else comes one at a time. If you play well here, if you are respected well by your teammates and you perform well then others will get to know more about you.

"So the first step for me was to help my teammates, to give the right performances. But you have to maintain that level. That's really difficult."