Sunderland are close to securing deal for Vito Mannone

Sunderland are set to hand Keiren Westwood a vote of confidence – by signing a goalkeeping rival

Vito Mannone

Sunderland are set to hand Keiren Westwood a vote of confidence – by signing a goalkeeping rival.

The Black Cats have agreed a fee with Arsenal for Vito Mannone, who is set to become the latest arrival in a massive overhaul of the squad.

However,  the 25-year-old Italian will be brought in to compete for a place with Westwood rather than as a direct replacement for £11m Simon Mignolet.

A more high-profile, big-money signing would no doubt have persuaded Westwood his future lay elsewhere.

The former Carlisle United goalkeeper has already made clear he would not tolerate a third season as back-up at the Stadium of Light after losing his briefly-held status as the Republic of Ireland’s first- choice goalkeeper as a result.

Now he must decide if he is confident of avoiding that fate in competition with a player with little top-flight pedigree.

Despite a brief spell in the first team last season because of injuries to Wojciech Szczesny and Lukas Fabianski, Mannone has always been down the Arsenal pecking order since his 2005 arrival from Atalanta.

He has a year left on his contract at the Emirates, but Arsenal have already indicated their willingness to clear out the dead wood in their squad by releasing 14 players at the end of last season, more than any other club in the division.

Mannone made just 15 of his 63 senior appearances in the Premier League.

They were supplemented by occasional Champions League outings, and loan spells at Barnsley and Hull City.

In conjunction with new director of football Roberto De Fanti, coach Paolo Di Canio is completely revamping his squad.

The signings of David Moberg Karlsson, Cabral, Valentin Roberge, Modibe Diakité, El-Hadji Ba and Duncan Watmore have all been secured and there are plenty more in the pipeline.

However,  the interest in Mannone suggests Westwood – a free transfer from Coventry City – is one of the few players to have impressed him.

Having ostracised his only remaining specialist Phil Bardsley after ill-advised late-night casino escapades, Di Canio has shown interest in several full-backs.

Talks are said to be ongoing with Vélez Sársfield over a deal for £5m-rated Argentina right-back Gino Peruzzi.

Left-backs Lucas Orban and Benjamin Mendy are also high on their list of targets.

Former Newcastle midfielder Christian Bassedas, now Vélez general manager, has claimed Peruzzi is “close to leaving” while the player himself has revealed he is in talks with Sunderland.

Inter Milan’s Alfred Duncan and Tottenham’s Tom Huddlestone are both thought to be of interest, although of the two midfielders, 20-year-old Ghanaian Duncan better fits their blueprint of youthful, pacy players.

Encouragingly  another target, former Hull City striker Jozy Altidore has spoken of his fondness for the Premier League.

Lazio are one of the clubs interested in taking him from Alkmaar, but his comments suggest Sunderland have an advantage.

Altidore said: “The Premier League is probably the biggest in the world.

“Everybody knows that and it would be a pleasure to play in a league like that again.”

Ahmed Elmohamady joined Hull City in a £2m deal and  striker Ji Dong-won is said to be interesting Bundesliga clubs, notably Borussia Dortmund.

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