Equally close to the bottom three as they are to the top four at the time of writing, you’d be right in assuming things aren’t going especially well at Arsenal.
A seriously hefty docket of work has been placed on Mikel Arteta’s shiny new desk.
He needs to both solve the issues within the current squad but equally make suitable additions to fill in the increasingly gaping cracks. He’s (re)arrived at the Emirates Stadium with a footballing philosophy of his own and an insistence that he will be ‘ruthless’, but even all of that won’t help his defenders learn how to defend.
Acquisitions need to be made in a number of departments if the club are to stand any chance of winning the Europa League this season, or indeed sneaking their way into the Premier League top four. There’s even an FA Cup to contend with so, yeah, work to be done over the course of January.
Here’s six players Arsenal should sign this winter window.
1. Dayot Upmecano
The name on every Arsenal fan’s lips.
Kalidou Koulibaly is the dream signing for most clubs but given his price tag and age, the RB Leipzig central defender is the one the Gunners should be looking to bring in. Granted, Koulibaly is the more complete player at present, but France Under-21 international Dayot Upamecano looks like heading towards that status soon enough.
Prior to signing David Luiz last summer, there was talk of a swap deal involving Emile Smith Rowe, but in the end Arsenal had a bid – of around £50m – rejected by RB Leipzig. The interest was there, but the Bundesliga side were unwilling to lose such a talent so late in the window.
The Frenchman shone for Leipzig last season, playing his part in the best defence in the league, while this season only Wolfsburg and Borussia Mönchengladbach have conceded fewer goals. Tall, aggressive and adept at playing out from the back, he’d be welcomed with open arms at Arsenal. He’ll cost a fortune, but blimey he’d be worth it.
2. Willy Boly – Wolves
Wolves will be reluctant to let their key centre-back go in January but he will have one year left on his contract at the end of the season and the club won’t have many more chances of earning a profit for him should he turn down new terms.
Moreover, he’s a very good central defender. While Wolves will surely command a decent fee, it won’t be anywhere near the kind of figures being thrown around Europe for centre-backs at present, and would arrive in north London with Premier League experience.
He’s been one of the best performers at Molineux over the last three seasons, consistently looking up to the pace of the top-flight and also chipping in with the odd goal. Yes, he may be injured at the moment, but he’s almost back to fitness and worth one (more) inquiry at least.
3. Thomas Meunier – Paris
While perhaps not the outstanding right-back candidate, the options across Europe for the position are few and far between. That isn’t to say Thomas Meunier is a desperate option however, unlike – say – a 34-year-old Stephan Lichtsteiner.
At 28 years old, the Belgian right-back also boasts versatility, having played at right-wing as well as in central midfield. He offers experience at both club and international experience, and you don’t play 112 matches for Paris Saint-Germain if you aren’t any good.
With just six months left on his current deal, PSG may be inclined to sell for a cut-price instead of losing him for free in the summer. He still features for the club on a regular basis and there has been previous interest in the full-back from Arsenal before. Would be solid back-up for the constantly injured Hector Bellerin and the out of position Ainsley Maitland-Niles.
4. Fabian Ruiz – SSC Napoli
Granit Xhaka looks like he could be fulfilling the wishes of a large chunk of Arsenal fans as him and his agent plead with the club to accept Hertha Berlin’s near £35m offer. Should the club agree to the terms, and it does look likely, then a very sizable hole is left in the centre of the park.
As a replacement, Fabian Ruiz is a player who would complement Lucas Torreira perfectly. As seen against Bournemouth, the Uruguayan looks set to return to his defensive midfield role, which will open the door for a more box-to-box midfielder to play alongside him.
Ruiz is left-footed – like Xhaka – has great mobility, is a composed passer of the ball and has demonstrated strong work ethic with both SSC Napoli and at Spain Under-21 level. There was good reason he was ranked 40th on 90min’s 50 European Players of the Year, meanwhile, Dani Ceballos, was nowhere to be seen.
5. Denis Zakaria – Borussia Mönchengladbach
While it looks as if Torreira will resume his aforementioned role in the side, there is still a distinct lack of options for the position should he be injured, especially given Xhaka’s impending exit.
One of the hottest talents on the market at the moment is Denis Zakaria of Borussia Mönchengladbach. The Swiss midfielder has excelled in Bundesliga this season, drawing comparisons to Arsenal legend Patrick Vieira as well as Paul Pogba and, blimey, how much would Gunners fans love to see a remake of their former hero take to the north London turf once more.
Zakaria boasts good height – unlike Torreira – and tackling ability, but equally looks assured carrying the ball through midfield and taking on opponents. A likeness to Toni Kroos has even cropped up, much due to his supremely accurate passing, which extends from five-yard passes to 50-yard balls.
6. Thomas Partey – Atletico Madrid
Now this, this, would be a superb signing.
Atletico Madrid are yet to hit top form this season, but when they win, you can be sure Thomas Partey had a big say in matters. The Ghanaian is a machine in central midfield, and boasts a vast array of skills that would have him slot perfectly into the Arsenal lineup.
Granted, it is a long shot, but you will find few Gunners supporters who wouldn’t bite your hand off to see Partey don a different red and white in January. Yes, OK, he is currently contracted to Atletico until 2023 so he’d cost a fortune, but his all-round play would be perfect replacement for the inevitable Xhaka exit.
According to The Athletic’s David Ornstein, he was ‘desperate’ to join the Gunners during the summer, but Arsenal couldn’t afford his €50m release clause. Well, if the club can recoup €40m for Xhaka, according to my maths, that’s only like, ermm, a handful more…?
It may be a hopeful acquisition, especially during mid-season, but there is always a chance…ish.