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Arsenal can lay down a marker

Arsenal
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By ESPN Staff

Watford accept £8m Villa bid for Young

Watford striker Ashley Young was today set to have talks with Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill, after the Hornets accepted a bid - believed to be worth an initial £8 million - from the midlands club.

Watford, who visit Villa for a Barclays Premiership clash tomorrow, have given permission to O'Neill to speak with 21-year-old Young - who rejected the chance to move to West Ham earlier in the week.

Hammers boss Alan Curbishley had a bid of £9.65million accepted by Watford, and Villa's fee will come close to matching that once add-ons have been taken into account.

Young was initially thought to be keen to remain in London, with Tottenham appearing strong favourites to sign him in a cash-plus-player exchange deal with Watford - involving defender Calum Davenport and midfielder Wayne Routledge.

But Villa's chances of signing Young are said to be greater than those of the Hammers, who themselves have now signed central defender Davenport after failing with a £4million bid for Birmingham's Matthew Upson.

O'Neill has been scouring England and the continent for new forward talent after the less than convincing performances of Milan Baros and £9.5million club-record signing Juan Pablo Angel.

In addition, veteran Chris Sutton is still suffering from blurred vision and no nearer to making a recovery.

Former Celtic boss O'Neill has been linked with Robbie Keane, Jermaine Defoe and Craig Bellamy among others - plus winger Shaun Wright-Phillips.

But to date his only January capture has been Manchester United right-back Phil Bardsley, who has joined Villa on loan for the remainder of the season and is poised to make his debut against Watford.

The signing of Young would give out a positive message of intent to Villa supporters waiting to see just how much money new owner Randy Lerner is willing to spend.

If Young does agree a move to Villa Park, it could clear the path for Baros to join Lyon - who are managed by his former boss Gerrard Houllier.

Young made his Watford debut in September 2003 and the following season he was voted their young player of the year.

He scored 15 goals in 2005-2006 and played a major role in helping Watford regain their Premiership status.