Unai Emery has worked wonders in north London since his arrival in July. However, his Arsenal side are certainly not the finished product and the squad will need additions for the Gunners to challenge for silverware. What will the Arsenal transfer wishlist for this January look like?
The Arsenal Transfer Wishlist
The current Arsenal squad features several high-profile attacking talents. The likes of Alexandre Lacazette, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Mesut Ozil are combining well and generating lots of quality attacking play.
Therefore, additions to the attacking ranks seem unlikely in the coming window. This also means that the Arsenal transfer wishlist will revolve around defensive players.
The two main areas of need for Arsenal are centre-back and left-back. Injuries have left both positions exposed at times, showing the relative lack of depth the team has at the back.
First-choice Nacho Monreal is struggling to come back from injury and Sead Kolasinac, when fit, has not provided reliable defensive cover on the left flank. The former Schalke man looks far more at home in attack than in defence.
Additionally, Monreal will turn 33 before the end of the current campaign. Ainsley Maitland-Niles played the full-back position brilliantly at times last season, however, there are questions over where he is best deployed. The young man is a natural central midfielder and can play as a wide midfielder as well.
Arsenal have similar issues at centre-back. Club captain Laurent Koscielny, age 33, is still recovering from a major hamstring injury and Sokratis Papastathopolous, age 30, the team’s most consistent defender this season, has been in and out of the side as well.
Dinos Mavropanos, who signed in January, has yet to make his season debut due to injury. Meanwhile, Calum Chambers is spending another season on loan, this time to Fulham. All this means that the majority of defensive duties have recently fallen to Shkodran Mustafi and Rob Holding.
The former is a known defensive liability and the latter is not yet in his prime.
An issue which probably will not be sorted in January is the lack of wide forwards. Most of the width to Arsenal’s attacking play has come from the full-backs this season due to the lack of depth in this position. However, this issue is not nearly as severe as the team’s dearth of defensive quality and should, therefore, be addressed next summer.
Much like Liverpool last season, a class centre-back would make all the difference for the Gunners this campaign. Therefore, a top defender is at the top of the Arsenal transfer wishlist. However, signing one will prove a monumental task.
The aforementioned transfer, Virgil van Dijk, cost the Reds some £75 million, a larger sum than Arsenal’s record transfer, Aubameyang. Any centre-back of similar quality will cost a similar figure, making it difficult to envisage the Gunners completing such a transfer as they must spend within their means.
However, it is possible for Arsenal to make a move for a player who has an expiring contract or one who is surplus to requirement at their current club.
One target could be Diego Godin of Atletico Madrid. While the Uruguayan is getting on in years, turning 33 in February, he is a player who keeps getting better with age. His partner for both club and country, José María Giménez, who would surely be a more attractive option, however, signed a new deal to keep him in the Spanish capital until 2023.
There are also options with Premier League experience. For example, two of Tottenham’s top defenders have expiring contracts, Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld. While Vertonghen has hinted he may stay with the club beyond this season, he may want to test the waters in January in the hopes of a mega-deal.
Alderweireld, on the other hand, seems certain to seek the exit door at Spurs next summer, if not sooner. Either of these deals would be difficult to complete, however, as neither club enjoy doing business with their biggest rivals.
Meanwhile, the 31-year-old David Luiz is not the most defensively-secure centre-back, however, his current deal with Chelsea expires next summer. Though he may yet sign a new contract, Arsenal could test their London rival’s resolve in January.
Given the fact that Arsenal are at the FA minimum when it comes to homegrown players, one Englishman could be on the Arsenal transfer wishlist. Chris Smalling will see his contract expire next summer unless Jose Mourinho sees fit to offer fresh terms.
Surplus to Requirement
Two names which continue to crop up in transfer rumours are Medhi Benatia and Daniele Rugani, both currently under contract at Juventus. Neither are getting the minutes they believe they deserve at the Old Lady, leading to frustration.
Benatia is 31-years-old, meaning he would not be a long-term solution at the back, however, his experiences in Turin could offset his ageing legs in terms of value to Arsenal.
Rugani, on the other hand, is just 24 and entering his prime years now. Arsenal would have to rival other top clubs, for example, Chelsea, to secure his signature, but Rugani’s age would make him a more attractive signing.
Despite the huge price tags paid by Manchester City for Kyle Walker and Benjamin Mendy, full-backs generally do not cost as much as centre-backs. So, Arsenal could presumably sign a long-term replacement for the ageing Nacho Monreal.
That doesn’t mean they should disregard the possibility of signing a player on an expiring contract, such as Filipe Luis of Atletico Madrid. Arsenal will remember his play well from the Europa League semi-final last season.
The main argument against such a move, and likely the reason he has not been offered fresh terms by Diego Simeone, is his age, 33.
Finally, the Gunners are already linked with another left-back, Nicolas Tagliafico of Ajax. He is still in his prime, having turned 26 over the summer, and is described best as a defensive specialist. Tagliafico leads Ajax in interceptions this season and has a career average of around three tackles per 90 minutes.
The left-back is also tidy in possession, having a pass accuracy rate of 86.1% in the league this season. This means he could fit into Emery’s plans to build from the back.
The player only joined the Dutch giants last January, so Arsenal would have to make an attractive offer.
The Last Word
The Arsenal transfer wishlist is certain to contain at least a few centre-backs and likely some left-backs as well. However, given the over-inflated nature of the transfer market, it is no guarantee to see a top player move to the Emirates this season.
Rather, the Gunners may opt to look at players with expiring contracts or who find themselves surplus to requirement. One thing is for sure; Arsenal must get better at the back in order to win trophies.
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