**warning – this post is long, so damn long because there are so many issues that need solving this January. So boil the kettle, jam a coffee and comment with your thoughts on the upcoming winter window.**
When there is an obvious lack of squad depth and quality, it is safe to predict that there will be about 2,309,255 players connected with a January move to Arsenal. If Arsene Wenger declares he is looking for a new goalkeeper in order to find cover for Sczszesny, every person in the world that wears gloves and aged between 20 and 40 will be linked.
However, there are things that shouldn’t be left out of sight when the transfer market analysis is made. If you talk about possible signings to Arsenal, you can’t forget there are some clubs that have similar demands like we do or they are interested in screwing up our deal. There was a story that the Spuds snatched Van der Vaart from the hands of Liverpool by making a false offer to Ryan Babel. Liverpool needed money from Babel’s deal to finance the transfer of Van der Vaart from Real and they received offers from West Ham and a better one from the Spuds. When the Reds accepted the offer from the Spuds on deadline-day, the Spuds called Van der Vaart and cancelled the bid made for Babel.
At the moment the January transfer window seems to us like a door to a better future. We expect our manager to bring in top quality players despite the fact those kind of transfers rarely take place in January because it’s already mid-season. After all, the most expensive player ever in Arsenal history Jose Antonio Reyes was signed in the 2003-04 January transfer window. It’s interesting to notice that in the season 2005-06 during which we had fought with the Spuds until the last match for the CL-spot and reached the CL-final Wenger had made the biggest number of significant purchases in January: Walcott, Adebawhore, Diaby and Vela were signed from their respective clubs for £23.2 million pounds. In 2008-09 Wenger had to wait until January to sign Andrey Arshavin from Zenit, however last season our only senior signing was the return of the King – Thierry Henry signed on loan from New York Red Bulls.
If we want to make any sort of serious analysis regarding our January transfer window, we will have to take a look at some other clubs, especially in the Premiership and what they will be looking for in January.
Ever since Vito Mannone stood between our sticks and producing performances that left us with mixed feelings due to injuries to our No.1 and No.2 goalkeepers Szczesny and Fabianski, we were connected with a lot of goalkeepers from Premiership. It went so far that we were connected with the unsettled Hugo Lloris who was signed by the Spuds in the summer. Goalkeepers that were usually connected with us were Michel Vorm (Swansea) and especially Jose Reina (Liverpool), with then name of Thomas Soerensen (Stoke) left in the shadow of the duo.
Given that performances by Wojciech Szczesny, who successfully returned from injury, had been the only light in our recent performances, a possibility of signing goalkeeper with the reputation of Vorm or Reina seems unlikely. Granted, Szczesny is the only reliable goalkeeper we have but that doesn’t mean we are going to sign someone to put him on the bench, especially since I believe none of the aforementioned goalkeepers would do any better than Szczesny. Reina would cost at least £10m pounds and I can’t imagine that the Spaniard, who hasn’t had the best campaign so far, would be the man on whom Wenger would splash a big part of transfer budget. The Vorm transfer seems more likely to happen though the Dutchman is currently injured with Tremmel doing excellent job filling in for him. Vorm could be tempted with the opportunity to play in the Champions’ League in the spring and he would probably cost us half than Reina would.
And this is the part where the importance of the puzzle comes in. When we take a look at other clubs in the Premiership with certain ambitions, it is most likely Liverpool will search for a new goalkeeper. They haven’t been very satisfied with Reina’s performances this season and given that Brendan Rodgers was managing Vorm last season at Swansea, it seems likely to me that Rodgers will try to sell Reina in order to get funds to sign Vorm. There was also rumours that Liverpool would try to sign Asmir Begović from Stoke but I think Vorm could be the one that will change club this winter. From our point of view, it could leave us with options to sign either Reina or the rarely mentioned Soerensen. If I were Wenger, I would go with the experienced Danish goalkeeper.
He would be excellent cover for Sczszesny and I highly doubt he would cost that much. The only problem is, Soerensen is currently unhappy with being No.2 to Begović at Stoke and a transfer to Arsenal only to be No.2 to Sczszesny might not sound so tempting for him, however he will have a shot at playing in the Champions League.
This part of the team hasn’t functioned well in previous matches, mostly because Vermaelen’s form was horrible ever since he had a flu that made him miss the clash against Manchester City, but there wasn’t so many rumours regarding new defenders. However, with the possibility of Sagna’s departure in January with Inter Milan being favourites to land – IMO- the best right back in the world, it could be that we will be looking for a new right back. Jenkinson has developed fantastically but he has still a lot to learn, especially when it comes to the attacking part of the game, and another right full-back could be an option for Wenger.
Sagna is a 29-year-old injury prone player that will enter his final 18 months of the contract which means we will have to cash him in soon if he does not re-sign. There were some rumours regarding Micah Richards in the summer given that the Englishman is unsettled at Manchester City since Roberto Mancini prefers Zabaleta and Maicon in the pecking order even when Richards is not injured. Richards possesses certain qualities and he can play either as a central defender or right back. However, with Richards being ruled out until February due to a knee-injury, it is very unlikely we are going to bid for him, at least not in January.
Previously we were linked with the Croatian right full-back Šime Vrsaljko from Dinamo Zagreb but it is unlikely that Wenger finds that youngster interesting anymore. Vrsaljko was a promising talent while he was 17 but he stagnated and failed to impress ever since. We were linked with Nathaniel Clyne from Southampton at the start of the season who already scored one goal for us this season but Southampton defense is not the best to give us reinforcements. Monreal from Malaga was also mentioned as a possible signing. Given that the cash-strapped Spanish side reached the Knockout Stage of the Champions’ League, it could be that they will be reluctant to sell their best players before summer despite their financial issues.
On the other side of the defense, we have Kieran Gibbs and the shirt-swapping-worse-defender-than-driver Santos, with the option of Vermaelen covering that role. There were rumours regarding Luke Shaw, the young left full-back from Southampton, dubbed as the new Gareth Bale but let’s hope that doesn’t mean he is a cheating diver with an unnatural affection for the Spuds. Somehow I believe that any addition that Wenger would like to make will be connected with the destiny of Cashley Cole. It seems that Cashley won’t sign a new contract with the Chavs and there are clubs – one of the craziest rumours connected him with an unlikely return to the Gunners – that would pay him for his services despite being past his prime. Omnipresent Paris Saint-Germain could take him away from London since the French club has what Cashley prefers – owners that are ready to pay tons of money in order to win the title they are waiting for almost 20 years. If Cashley indeed leaves the Chavs as early as January, that could mean Benitez will try to sign a left full-back.
Leighton Baines is currently the best left full-back in the league and there is no club in England that wouldn’t like to sign him. We were connected with him already and Wenger could be tempted to splash a lot of money on the Englishman given that Baines outclassed our players in our recent clash with Everton. FAnchester United could be interested in signing him too as well but it is unlikely to happen given that they already have Evra and Buttner. The Chavs will probably have an advantage if Cashley leaves given that they will be able to offer more money to Baines than we will.
It is unlikely that we will be looking for a new central defender since Wenger has faith in Djourou while Mertesacker and Koscielny have adjusted to the Premiership. With Vermaelen being captain, I don’t believe we will sign any new central defenders in January.
Interesting fact: Kolo Toure will be available on a free transfer in June.
What will be the first words Abou Diaby will say after (if ) he comes back from injury? “This was the longest three weeks in my life!” There are very few reasons to smile regarding Diaby’s injuries and situation with our midfield in general. We lack strength and determination in duels with the creative spark being easily turned off by our opponents. The departure of Alex Song seems to be a bigger blow than any of us could expect. He wasn’t the most solid shield in the world but he would do just fine for us. Unfortunately, Wenger’s midfield conception, with the exception of Cazorla, is lying on fragile backs, knees and ankles of Mikel Arteta, Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky, Aaron Ramsey and Abou Diaby with the unconvincing Francis Coquelin as fresh blood.
If we take a look at the other clubs that we are battling with (or at least we are supposed be), more or less every one of them will try to sign someone for their midfield. FAnchester United is seeking fresh blood in the midfield and there are a lot of midfielders out there that could be on Ferguson’s target. Cheick Tiote was often mentioned as a possible target for both Arsenal and FAnchester United but he is giving away too many fouls, he’s been booked too many times and it is not exactly something we should look for. What we need is a defensive midfielder capable of causing pressure in the middle of the pitch and in the opponents’ third in order to help creative units to create something for the attackers or score themselves.
Victor Wanayama from Celtic was targeted by both Wenger and Ferguson as well as Kevin Strootman from PSV while Ferguson has wanted to sign Wesley Sneijder from Inter for a very long time. A couple of French midfielders have been connected with Arsenal since August 1905 – Yann M’Vila, the young defensive midfielder from Rennes, was targeted by us and the Spuds, while Yohan Cabaye from Newcastle. There were a lot of rumours regarding the latter and Arsenal. Given that Newcastle apparently arranged a transfer of midfielder Moussa Sissoko from Toulouse who will join them in January, it could mean Cabaye will leave Newcastle for Arsenal.
I think that Sissoko’s transfer could be some sort of indication that Newcastle will sell someone in January and it could be Cabaye. When it comes to M’Vila, we could face competition from the Spuds who have Parker injured and nobody from their current squad seems like a proper replacement.
Of course, high-profile players like Götze and Fellaini would be a touch of class we desperately need. I already wrote about the German who apparently has a €30m release clause in his contract while the Belgian has been the best player in the Premiership so far. His goals against Arsenal, FAnchester United and Shitty alongside his dominating presence on the field drew attention from possible buyers, especially after he stated that it is probably his last season in Everton. The Chavs – who seem to want to get rid of Lampard before the next season starts – will aim his direction and it is always a problem for us given that they don’t know what “tight wage structure” means. I wouldn’t be surprised if Shitty try and snatch the Belgian as well given that Yaya Toure can’t hold their midfield together forever.
Marek Hamšik, the Slovakian midfielder from Napoli, wasn’t mentioned too often in transfer rumours which is a bit odd since every top club in England wanted to sign him in previous years. The same thing I wrote about Monreal could apply for his team-mate Isco. The hot prospect from Malaga is on the radar of all the big clubs in Europe but Malaga won’t sell him easily before the Knockout Stage of the Champions’ League ends.
From all the aforementioned players, it seems to me that Cabaye and M’Vila could be realistic targets for us and it wouldn’t be a bad idea to take both of them given the state of our midfield. Granted, most of the Gunners – including me – would like Fellaini the most, it is questionable whether he can play as a defensive midfielder as well as fulfilling his attacking roles.
The most attractive part of the game are attackers. Given that our current attackers can’t fill the boots of Verrader with the best scorer among them a contract rebel with an uncertain future, it is most likely that we will try to sign someone in attack come January.
We at allarsenal.com already wrote about Huntelaar and Llorente. Both of them are targeted by other clubs as well. Liverpool will need someone to take the goalscoring burden off Luis Suarez and, given that he is their only healthy striker, they will do whatever it takes to sign someone for their attacking line. Huntelaar was strongly connected with Liverpool in the recent past but it seems that he prefers Arsenal (which is a logical thing since he seems to be a clever guy) so Rodgers will probably aim at Demba Ba and, if he remains a contract rebel after 31st December, Theo Walcott.
Given that Schalke will play in the Knockout Stage of the Champions’ League, the German side could stick with Huntelaar until his contract expires in June. Therefore, Spanish strikers Adrian Lopez – who hasn’t had the best campaign with Atletico when it comes to scoring or creating goals – and Fernando Llorente could be more realistic options for us. Here comes the tricky part – Rafa Benitez. The new manager of the Chavs – provided that he doesn’t get sacked before January – likes to sign Spanish players and he could try to lure one of the aforementioned Spanish strikers to Stamford Bridge. The Chavs need a new striker given that Torres is a shadow of himself while Sturridge doesn’t possess the required quality to compensate for Torres’ underachievement. It is not unreasonable to think they will try to sign Huntelaar as well though the return of Drogba is the most likely scenario to happen for them.
The Spuds were connected with Llorente as well but given that they have Adebawhore, Defoe and Dempsey (though the American is more of an attacking midfielder), I highly doubt they will sign a top-drawer striker. It is more likely it would be someone who will be third or fourth choice in pecking order. Adrian Lopez would fit more in that category than Llorente.
Of course, Thierry Henry’s loan is always an interesting topic. It was obvious from his last season loan spell at Arsenal that Thierry can’t perform like he could when he was five years younger but he can be a leader that our team needs. It was after he was signed on short-term basis that we gained the confidence which gave us 3rd place at the end of the season. I would sign him because of that again.
We will probably make some signings in January, maybe it won’t be what we were hoping for but every signing that might lift us from this current depression would be a good one. There are plenty of top players available this winter and some bargain deals to be had, so get out your cheque book Wenger and resurrect our season.