Arsenal must make a crucial transfer decision in January to strengthen their squad and help Mikel Arteta to push towards winning titles.
One thing fans talk about the Invincibles side was their tremendous ability to win the Champions League. Not only did Arsenal boast one of the strongest sides, but that season also represented one of their best chances to lift the Champions League.
Arsene Wenger made a shrewd addition during the January transfer window in that season, as he signed the late Jose Antonio Reyes, who proved his worth in his contribution to the unbeaten league season. Mikel Arteta has transformed this current Arsenal unit and probably got them to a similar position to that 2003/04 side in terms of quality.
🚨 Arsenal wanted to sell Thomas Partey in January but his thigh injury means he may remain with the club beyond the winter window.
(Source: Football Insider) pic.twitter.com/WKwboB3ItC
— Transfer News Live (@DeadlineDayLive) November 12, 2023
After failing to capitalise on their momentum last season in the Premier League title race, Arteta has taken a more cautious approach this term. Arsenal need to play with the attacking fluidity of the previous season. Still, they are controlling games better and defending well, boasting the best record in that regard among all teams.
Arsenal added well in the summer and plugged some gaps in their setup. For instance, Declan Rice has been a transformational signing, while Kai Havertz is still finding his feet but getting more robust with each appearance. David Raya’s arrival raised some questions, but eventually, the Spaniard took no time ousting Aaron Ramsdale off his perch.
For Arteta, he wanted a more vigorous defence, as some suggested conceding 43 goals does not win you a championship. No team has won the Premier League title shipping in that many goals. Arsenal did come close but missed out for different reasons.
Hence, the signing of Jurrien Timber felt productive, and his early displays did prove a point. His untimely injury and the subsequent departure of Kieran Tierney have left the Gunners short of options in the full-back region. Arsenal are on the edge with the fitness of several players, which we shall discuss later.
So, with the January transfer window fast approaching, there are still varying suggestions from different sections on what Arsenal should do. Many have pointed at the need for a striker, with Ivan Toney’s name echoing too many times in reports. Arteta has yet to find that wide attacking option that would give Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli a breather occasionally. So, that can also play into the manager’s mind.
In the last few weeks, the goalposts have shifted towards a new central midfielder in a versatile mould that can defend and attack. Overall, the feeling is that Arsenal still need to replace Granit Xhaka properly and that Havertz does not fit into that role, something that is still debatable.
Hence, we must look closely at what Arsenal need and where they might find the player that could transform their fortunes ahead of January. A recent report has claimed that the ownership are ready to back Arteta with a £50 million-plus signing in the next window, which the manager might consider.
Here, we have three or four choices for Arsenal to consider ahead of January. For starters, Jeremie Frimpong, a right-back, would add defensive depth in the full-back areas. Midfield duo Martin Zubimendi and Douglas Luiz are the other choices to add steel into the middle areas, and finally, Pedro Neto, a player with the qualities Arteta needs to cover and compete with his current wide attackers.
Jeremie Frimpong (Right-Back)
This one is an unusual choice from an Arsenal perspective, considering Arteta has visibly moved away from ultra-attacking full-backs. Kieran Tierney was that, and so far, the manager seems content with Ben White’s contribution.
Yet, there is the element of adding some quality depth into those wide defensive areas, which Arsenal somewhat need to improve. More so, there feels like an imbalance with the current system, as Ben White has predominantly played there. Takehiro Tomiyasu is visibly competing on the left with Oleksandr Zinchenko, while Jakub Kiwior has also played on the left more.
The big issue is with the risk Arsenal are running by placing too much of the burden on Tomiyasu. Even Zinchenko has had his share of muscle problems. But Tomiyasu’s fitness has raised more questions over the last two seasons, and his absence has cost the side dearly.
Hence, Arteta must consider adding someone like Jeremie Frimpong, as the Dutchman gives a different option altogether. The Bayer Leverkusen star has plenty of suitors, including Barcelona and Manchester United. But at Arsenal, he can become a weapon of another type for the manager.
Depending on the game state, Frimpong can add an extra layer of attacking threat down the right-hand side while giving Arteta a different option than Ben White or Tomiyasu. However, the only thing that is stopping Arsenal from approaching is the potential early return for Timber from his injury, as per recent reports.
Moreover, the price Bayer Leverkusen would demand might not make it worth it for Arsenal to invest heavily in a position they lack for the time being. If the club were to decide on this position, it would be after thoroughly considering Timber’s return date. But Frimpong can become a solid long-term option for them.
Douglas Luiz/Martin Zubimendi (Central Midfield)
The overriding feeling is that the situation with Thomas Partey may have changed Arteta’s plans for January. The Ghanaian midfielder’s constant unavailability has ensured Arsenal’s midfield options are thin and are one Declan Rice or Jorginho injury away from a crisis.
🚨🔴⚪️ Arsenal are gonna look again into the midfielders market in January after Thomas injury.
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) November 9, 2023
The club have certainly thought about a succession plan to replace Jorginho and Partey at some stage, and they must accelerate those ideas in January. The best options are Douglas Luiz or Martin Zubimendi, but there are complications with both.
Luiz might be the best fit, but Aston Villa will not sell, at least not for the prices Arsenal will think is possible to sign the Brazilian. The midfielder has tremendous experience in the Premier League and will perfectly fit into the mould of a versatile midfielder Arteta wants.
Villa are in the mix for a top-four finish, and losing their most important player in mid-season would strike a massive blow to their plans. Hence, even if Arsenal show readiness to pay what’s necessary for his signature, Unai Emery’s side will pull the plug on any transfer and force a stay, at least until the summer.
Martin Zubimendi, on the other hand, may seem like a straightforward signing if Arsenal can pay his reported £52 million release clause. The problem is Real Sociedad are also in the mix for many things this season and will only consider a sale if the Gunners pay that exit clause in full, something the Gunners may not favour.
🗣️| @FabrizioRomano: “Real Sociedad’s Martin Zubimendi is another player really appreciated by Mikel Arteta, and he looks perfect for their project, but from what I’m hearing, the player is very happy at his current club and not thinking about moving at the moment. He also has a… pic.twitter.com/is85yq25Ni
— Arsenal Buzz (@ArsenalBuzzCom) November 12, 2023
Regarding his profile, Zubimendi can be seen as Spanish version of Declan Rice, albeit smaller in frame. The Spaniard is a great passer and one of the good manipulators of blocks, while his natural tendency to defend is what Arteta likes from his midfielders.
The problem would come from a significant interest in Zubimendi from elsewhere. Barcelona were the early suitors for the midfielder, but now, Manchester United are interested in him big time. There are many other suitors, which makes it very tricky for Arsenal, who must show decisiveness if they want him.
Realistically, Arsenal should put their best foot forward in the next window to solve their midfield issue. Bringing in one of those two will cement their place to challenge for major honours this season. Zubimendi seems more realistic between the two, provided the club ownership can find the money to pay upfront. However, if they can find a way to convince Luiz, the Brazilian should be their No.1 priority, barring none.
Pedro Neto (Winger)
Before Arsenal shifted their goalposts from a striker to a central midfielder, Arteta would have liked to bring in a new winger. Pedro Neto excites the manager and Edu Gaspar like no other player, and they wanted him during the summer.
"I'm recovering really well to be honest, things are better that expected" 🙏
The injured Pedro Neto provides an update on his condition and his thoughts on the first-half between Wolves and Spurs…
— Football on TNT Sports (@footballontnt) November 11, 2023
Having started the season in sensational form, Neto cemented his status as a top player after a terrific performance against Manchester City at the Molineux. Despite missing the last few games with a fresh hamstring injury, the Portuguese winger still leads the assists charts with seven to his name.
That hamstring injury was sustained during a thrilling encounter against Newcastle United, which encompassed what he is all about. Full of energy over 90 minutes and relentless running is what Arteta wants from that option. Moreover, the Portuguese can operate on both flanks with similar efficiency, which makes him a solid option as cover for either Martinelli or Saka.
The injury is not as severe as feared earlier, as reports suggested Arsenal have again grown cautious about making a move. With the winger likely to return after the international break, the Gunners could think about reigniting their interest in the winger.
The only issue is his price, as Wolves are in a terrific position to demand what they want. So, Arsenal may not find a way around this transfer. Hence, if Arsenal want to put all their eggs in the winger basket, they should go for Neto.
In conclusion, Arsenal must target a central midfielder in the Luiz/Zubimendi mould, as that area seems like the more vulnerable part of the squad. Other than that, Arteta will be happy with the support from Edu and the board. In January, he might only need an addition or two to cement the Gunners’ position as serious challengers for the Premier League and Champions League titles.