Arsène Wenger wants to sign Ashley Williams from Swansea City at the end of the season, having lost faith in his central-defensive partnership of Thomas Vermaelen and Per Mertesacker.
Wenger has identified the Wales captain as someone with the leadership qualities to control and organise Arsenal's defence the way it was when the club built a large part of their success on having dominant figures such as Tony Adams, Martin Keown or Steve Bould in the heart of their back four.
Arsenal face competition for the 28-year-old Williams from Liverpool, with Brendan Rodgers also prioritising the signing of at least one established centre-half in the summer and keen to recruit a player he previously managed at Swansea. Williams, contracted until 2015, would cost in the region of £8m.
Williams has been an integral part of Swansea's success since joining from Stockport County in the Roberto Martínez era, establishing himself over the past five years as a key figure in defence with his reading of the game and ability to organise and take responsibility.
The absence of such a player has been repeatedly emphasised during some of Arsenal's key matches this season, not least the 2-1 defeat at Tottenham Hotspur that leaves Wenger's team seven points behind their rivals with 10 games remaining, and facing the distinct possibility of finishing behind them for the first time since Gerry Francis was the manager at White Hart Lane in 1995.
Wenger had already made up his mind that he needed a new centre-half well before the north London derby and, ideally, wanted to bring in someone in January. What happened at the weekend is hardly likely to have persuaded him to rethink bearing in mind the soft nature of Tottenham's goals and the way neither Vermaelen nor Mertesacker, experienced internationals with Belgium and Germany respectively, seem capable of taking charge of the team's defence.
Wenger, whose appointment of Bould as assistant manager this season failed to solve the problem, had hoped Vermaelen could be that controlling, organisational player but there are few signs of it happening. The Belgian was particularly culpable on Sunday when Arsenal's poor defensive line let in Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon to score in quick succession.
In Liverpool's case, Rodgers is preparing for Jamie Carragher's retirement and is not convinced by Martin Skrtel's performances. Rodgers has already spoken of wanting to "bring in some men" after a period of recruitment that has seen the club concentrate mostly on signing players of 23 or under. Sebastián Coates, the 22-year-old Uruguayan, could also be on his way out of Anfield and that means Rodgers might need as many as three new centre-backs to augment Daniel Agger.
Williams, who has played in all four professional divisions and began his career with Hednesford Town, fits the bill as someone who is not just one of the leading lights in Michael Laudrup's team but also a strong figure in the dressing room who will lead by example.