Ivan Toney: Arsenal lead Chelsea in race to sign Brentford striker

Arsenal are leading the chase for Brentford's Ivan Toney in what is shaping up to be one of the January transfer window's major sagas.

The 27-year-old is currently a major target for a number of clubs looking at adding a centre-forward during the window, including Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur, given his quality and the paucity of available options in the position.

Brentford are also willing to do business, having adapted the team to his absence following an eight-month suspension for breaching betting rules.

The forthcoming end of that ban has seen a series of clubs escalate their interest. While Chelsea had long been seen as the most likely destination, they have to make a number of sales in January to be compliant with Profit and Sustainability rules.

That is before they can even think of buying, especially a player expected to be valued at £60m up front and perhaps as much as £80m including add-ons. Another element that has shifted the race, however, is Chelsea's underperformance compared to Arsenal.

Mikel Arteta's side offer the chance of challenging for the Premier League title this season, and that has made them Toney's preferred option right now.

Arsenal are also considering the possibility that he could be the player to ultimately make the difference in the title race, especially now an even better opportunity has presented itself mid-season with Manchester City's inconsistent form.

Toney has long interested them, although there are many more considerations before they make a concrete move.

One is the length of time he has faced out, and whether it would take him a while to get up to speed. Another is that Arteta wants four other positions he feels he needs to complete his squad.

Ivan Toney will be available to play again from January 17 (PA Wire)
Ivan Toney will be available to play again from January 17 (PA Wire)

They are centre-forward, another midfielder and two full-backs. Arsenal's budget and their own Profit and Sustainability concerns mean they have to compromise on at least two of those, for the time being, unless there are additional sales to supplement their transfer budget.

There is an increasing belief, nevertheless, that a striker of Toney's quality and spark can have a huge impact in north London.

Tottenham would love to sign Toney, too, but are currently priced out of the market and likely to go for younger options.

Manchester United have been interested in the past, and equally feel the need to bring in another forward.

That necessity is behind other priorities, though, and they similarly need to sell. Outgoings are set to be the focus of their January window.