So we have reached Transfer Deadline Day. That dreaded day which plays Russian Roulette with football fans mental health when activity has been non-existent throughout the month.
The transfer window is a time which I hate the most as it almost feels like daily a new name pops up as a potential target. The usual ITKs make an appearance whilst drip feeding nuggets of information which only succeed in whipping up a frenzy of speculation.
How genuine these links are can be debatable but for many information starved fans they run with it and go through a cycle of emotions as a player is linked, is close then the deal allegedly breaks down or they join another club whilst no actual concrete proof exists to prove Arsenal were even in for the player.
As I write this there has been no new signings confirmed to counter the string of exits that occurred this month. When you look at the bigger picture you wonder where Mikel Arteta is looking to improve the playing squad.
At the start of the month we were clearly short of players but by time we play our next game v Wolves on 10th Feb we should in theory have back all the players we lost to AFCON. Where we were short in midfield Granit Xhaka will return to the line up, Thomas Partey having served his one- match ban will also be back to complete what seems Arteta’s first choice to play in the middle. Mohammed Elneny will be back as cover alongside Sambi.
Arteta had utilised the loss of Xhaka and Partey to drop Odegaard deeper so in trying to work out the thinking of Mikel Arteta he would in theory believe he has enough experienced midfield cover whilst having the option to blood the younger talents of Charlie Patino and Miguel Azeez.
That puts into doubt the desperation to get long linked player Arthur Melo to sign on the dotted line.
Having looked at the amount of football Martinelli and Saka have had to play recently, the returning Pepe (if he’s still in the good books) could provide alternative cover on the flanks but he is only one player. One would think that would be a position to look at however Emile Smith Rowe could and has been used in the flank positions this season. Would Pepe and ESR be seen as able cover for flanks with the addition to blood a youngster like Salah Eddine or Omari Hutchinson?
Not to forget Arteta has often brought Eddie Nketiah off the bench to also occupy a flank position. Not a popular choice to play there but I’m just going on evidence of what Mikel Arteta has opted for (recently against Burnley Nketiah replaced ESR to play there).
In defence there might be a case for recruitments but looking at the full back areas it seems Arteta has decided on his first choice full backs and has decided on his back up in the form of Tavares, Cedric Soares and emergency cover Ben White. Cedric may not be flavour of the month with fans at the moment but he provides experienced cover if needed to be called upon.
The Centre back position is treading a fine line as beyond the first choice pairing of Ben White and Gabriel we have Rob Holding available to step in but beyond that other than drafting in versatile players who have slotted in there before such as Elneny and Tierney its seems a big risk to not have more experience available to cover.
Despite all the plaudits for the masses of talent pouring through the revolving doors at Hale End we aren’t quite at the stage to have an available youngster banging on the first team door that specialises at centre back.
Closest you would think is Omar Rekik who will be coming back to the club fresh from achieving some full international football experience at the AfCON. Initially a Dutch youth international when we signed him from Hertha Berlin; he switched allegiance to Tunisia and was drafted into their squad for the recent tournament.
Making his debut earlier this year for his country it is experience that will no doubt aid in his development however he is yet to kick a ball in anger for the Arsenal first team apart from a couple appearances in pre season. It would see a major jump up the development ladder but the young defender would be high on confidence given his recent experience out in Cameroon.
Very risky a strategy but just trying to think through Arteta eyes I can’t see any signing coming in that would be an experienced stop gap as we had that already in players like Mari and Chambers. If a player does come in it would likely be young and for the future (although William Saliba would have something to say about that).
So after going through full back, centre back, centre mid and flanks there is the possibility that Arteta is content with what he has so far?
In the goal keeping area there’s not much to discuss. I can’t see Leno leaving in this window. The rumours of the American keeper Turner doing the rounds suggest he will be an acquisition for the summer and so planned for next season. This will mean the German will likely be kept on and tasked to find a new club for next season.
Can’t see much call for recruitment in that position. Emile Smith Rowe and Martin Odegaard have that role stitched up whilst Lacazette has often occupied that position too when called upon and it’s also a role Bukayo Saka could well fill if required.
Now we have reached a position that seems to be the most in need to have acquisitions made. Given the massive cloud of uncertainty that hangs over the future of Pierre Emerick Aubamyang we find ourselves in a situation where our options are threadbare. Right now our two options to lead the line lay with Lacazette and Nketiah. If we cannot find any chance for reconciliation between the manager and the Gabon international then we will need personnel to come through the Emirates doors.
The lack of a main source of goals from our central striker has been one of our biggest Achilles heels in the team. One would suggest a striker that adds goals would be the missing piece to dovetail the growth of the team so far and take them up a notch in the ladder of improvement under Mikel Arteta.
Ostracised or not we have to admit the goals had dried up for Aubameyang long before his fall out with the manager. Alex Lacazette has filled in ably but at the wrong end of 30 there isn’t much scope to improve on what he offers already. Eddie Nketiah despite coming through the ranks and proving himself to be a decent striker he just falls of what we need for a striker in the role to get the optimum from our system.
It’s no fault of his own and he could probably move to another club which is more of a fit in football style to his strengths and bag a hatful of goals at Premier League level. Eddie feeds off service whilst we likely need a striker that can both feed of service and make goals out of nothing. It just seems there’s more demanded for the type of striker we need in terms of physicality, link up play, strength, finishing and creating goals for others (gosh, that’s a unicorn right there).
To get that type of profile of player is no easy feat and you have to wonder if that type of player is obtainable in this window at a not so inflated price.
Vlahovic seemed the name that dominated all the rumours but that was put to bed when he signed on the dotted line for Juventus. Much similar to Locatelli last summer it led to a lot of acrimony on the social media amongst Arsenal fans at the players we lost out on.
Nketiah and Lacazette are both players on course to leave at end of the season on a free. Throw in Aubamyang and that’s three players tasked with helping our fight for top four that are unlikely to be part of the set up next season. Balogun is out at Middlesbrough gaining valuable experience and Mika Biereth or the recently recalled Nikolaj Moller should not really be tasked with saving our season if any unfortunate injuries occur.
In fairness Mikel Arteta earned some kudos for what at the time was regarded as underwhelming signings but indeed turned out to be shrewd acquisitions which were all a success to some measure. Can Arteta repeat that trick again this window? Well first he needs to sign someone, the question is who? Calum Chambers joined Aston Villa completely out of the blue. Do Arteta and Edu have some deals under wraps to surprise us? Let’s see how the day unfolds, they have certainly cut things fine.
Going out of both cups in January probably put a pause on some potential deals getting over the line sooner but even without the cups there is still plenty to play for to the end of season. Arteta needs to ensure all the steps he has made forward this season are not regressing by the end when there are clear points in the season where mistakes could be pinpointed. Our January dealings so far could very much be the Damocles sword that swings above his head for the rest of the season.
Born a stone’s throw (and a 271 bus ride) away from Highbury. Arsenal is my life, I celebrate every win and I suffer every defeat, it’s all about taking the good with the bad. Writing and sharing about everything Arsenal certainly keeps me sane!