Arsenal could prioritise a centre-back in January: Is it feasible?

Mikel Arteta could narrow down his preferences and target a centre-back in January over other critical positions in the Arsenal squad.

There is an argument that William Saliba missing the final three months of the season cost Arsenal the shot at the Premier League title. With the Frenchman in the side, there was a significant upside for the Gunners to lift the elusive trophy after a gap of nearly 20 years.

However, that awful game against Sporting CP, where they lost both Saliba and Takehiro Tomiyasu, probably marked the end of their stellar run towards the title. Did Arsenal make amends in the summer to prevent this issue from ever occurring again? Probably so, but it did not work in their favour.

Arsenal signed the promising Jurrien Timber, and his presence in the backline appeared to have made them more robust. The addition of Declan Rice also shored up the overall defensive side of the Gunners’ game, as they are still the second-best team in the league in that regard.

Since losing Timber to an ACL injury, the chances of the Dutchman playing again this season are slim, and there needs to be a visible cover at the back for Arteta to rotate his centre-backs. Despite the fact that the former Ajax star played in a left-back role in those few games in pre-season and Community Shield, he can also play on as a right-back or a centre-back.

Had he not suffered the untimely injury, Arsenal would have been more solid, and Arteta would have focused on bringing either a striker or a midfielder in January. Sure enough, they are lacking in both those departments, going by the troubles they have had since the season began.

Some of the targets mentioned include Douglas Luiz and Ivan Toney, with both likely to cost around £100 million. Hence, it has come to a point where Arsenal must prioritise their January business and narrow down on the position they want to strengthen the most next month.

Arsenal could prioritise a centre-back

The rumblings in the media over the past few weeks have conveniently pointed towards a centre-back signing, although how much of that is feasible remains the question. There are a host of options on the table going by reports. But Arteta would prefer a versatile option that can also cover wide areas.

If they sign one central defender in, the chances of Jakub Kiwior leaving could increase exponentially, especially if it is a left-footed player who arrives. A report stated Arsenal could make a loan-to-buy offer for Goncalo Inacio, who is purely a left-sided option and one who has the profile to slot in an auxiliary left-back role if needed.

Matthijs de Ligt also remains linked. But the Dutchman can only play in the central position. In that case, Arteta may as well experiment with Gabriel Magalhaes in the wide zone. Whether that would work in the long term remains the question. But it is certainly an option for the manager to think about.

While there is a clear indication about what Arteta is looking for in a new defender, it may be a right-sided or a left-sided option in January. There are also links to Ousmane Diomande, who can expertly slot in the way the Spaniard wants at the back.

Diomande and Inacio, both at Sporting CP, have a straightforward release clause. But the Portuguese club are reportedly open to structuring a loan-to-buy with a mandatory clause. They did that last January with Tottenham for Pedro Porro and might agree again.

As for someone like de Ligt, Bayern Munich would demand significantly, considering they will be strengthening a continental rival who could emerge as a strong contender in the Champions League. In hindsight, a deal for one of Diomande or Inacio would make more sense.

However, in the context of the season, Arsenal must keep Saliba and Tomiyasu fit to boost their chances of the title. Adding another solid presence, as an alternative to Kiwior, would help Arteta rotate his backline in games and keep the lot fit for most parts.

Do Arsenal have the finances for a new centre-back?

Last January, Arsenal needed to strengthen a few positions, as they brought in Jorginho, Leandro Trossard and Kiwior. All of those signings have had a reasonably successful outcome. But in the latter’s case, Arteta continues to ponder.

They might still target a midfielder if their finances permit such a deal. Despite talk about Arsenal willing to sell Eddie Nketiah to fund a new striker signing, Arteta has leaned towards keeping the Hale End academy graduate and moving for a new shiny forward in the summer rather than now.

As for their finances, there are suggestions that Arsenal are running on a thin line with FFP. If they manage to sell a player or two, they may have the room to spend significantly in January. They do not have the pockets to splash massively on primary targets. But there is always a way to manoeuvre around things.

Should they sign someone like Inacio or Diomande on a loan-to-buy offer, it might help them have some room for another signing, possibly a midfielder. Signing Ivan Toney on loan seems impossible, considering David Raya is already on loan, and no club can take two players from the same team on a temporary basis in the same season.

Fabrizio Romano reported Arsenal had triggered the option in Raya’s contract, which might change things in January. However, as things stand, the Gunners are weighing up bringing in a new defender on priority, and that may help them most in the title push ahead.

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