By Bill Mann

WITH Chelsea languishing in sixth, it seems Roman Abramovich has finally called time on the Stamford Bridge old guard by preparing to spend a whopping £247m on new players this summer, according to the Daily Mail.

Chelsea target Hulk, Falcao and Lavezzi with £247m transfer pot

Whoever takes the reins at Stamford Bridge can look forward to plundering some of Europe’s top clubs for their stars. But Roman isn’t waiting for a new manager to be installed – his scouts have been scouring the world in search of talent since Christmas, and are now said to have paperwork on potential fees and wages ready to go.

Among the players to have caught the Russian’s eye are Porto striker Hulk, Atletico Madrid frontman Radamel Falcao and Napoli playmaker Ezequiel Lavezzi. The Mail says that in order to free up space in the dressing room Chelsea are likely to offload David Luiz to Barcelona and also get shot of Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou and Florent Malouda.

Over on the other side of London, Arsenal’s Theo Walcott has suddenly discovered some inner steel. Unfortunately for Gunners fans his new-found toughness is off the pitch and not on it.  According to, the England winger is in “contract stalemate” with the club even though he reportedly wants to remain at the Emirates.

At the heart of the dispute is Walcott’s demand for a wage hike, from his current weekly salary of £60,000 to £100,000. The Gunners, however, are offering the 23-year-old an £80,000-a-week deal spread over four years, which seems reasonable enough for a player who, like Nasa’s views on climate change, remains unproven.

Despite some strong performances in the past few weeks – including a goal in last night’s 3-0 win over Wolves – Walcott’s form has been frustratingly patchy for too long and he’s been overshadowed this season by the emergence of 18-year-old Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (who replaced him against Wolves).

As a result, claim that Walcott “is seeking personal assurances” from Arsene Wenger about his role in the side next season. Walcott’s existing contract expires in 2013 and while both parties are said to be keen to reach an amicable agreement the longer the stalemate continues the more Arsenal will fear a similar situation to that which they experienced last year with Samir Nasri.

However reports that chief executive Ivan Gazidis has let it be known that the club will not be “held to ransom” and Walcott’s can go whistle for his six-figure salary.

Still with the Gunners and their chances of landing Montpellier marksman Olivier Giroud have improved after Marseille pulled out of the race to land the French frontman. The 25-year-old Giroud has propelled Montpellier to the top of the French league with his finishing skills and Wenger is said to be keen to bring the France international to the Emirates.

Marseille announced they were giving up the ghost in an interview with French broadcaster OMTV. “This is a player who wants to play in the Champions League next season and it seems we are not going to get there,” explained Marseille sporting director Jose Anigo, a reference to the side’s poor league position. “That is why I do not believe we have any chance to sign him.”

Though Anigo declared his belief that Montpellier will do all that they can to hang on to Giroud, rumours continue to link him to Arsenal, particularly as Marouane Chamakh is reportedly on his way back to Bordeaux. The Sun says that the misfiring Moroccan is in discussions with his old club and that, providing he’s happy to take a pay cut, Chamakh will be welcomed with open arms by the French outfit.

In other news it looks like Ken Livingstone isn’t the only one in London blubbing like a baby. Chelsea have cause to shed a few tears after they were told they’ve got no hope of signing Argentine ace Gonzalo Higuain.

Chelsea, as well as Manchester City, have been tailing the Real Madrid striker for months but, according to Talksport ,the player’s dad has told them to call off the hunt. In conversation with Argentine news agency Telam, Jorge Higuain reportedly said of the rumours linking his son to a move to England: “There is nothing in it. He has four years left on his contract and they [Real Madrid] love him very much.”