Sunday night’s Emirates FA Cup exit was another painful reminder to Arsenal fans that “The Project” is still a work in progress with lots to be done on and off the pitch. Some of the off pitch business can begin to be addressed this month as the January Transfer window offers an opportunity for Technical director Edu Gaspar and manager Mikel Arteta to sign, sell and loan players.
January Windows over the years
The Gunners haven’t been known to be big January spenders over the years with previous windows seeing very little business done. On the rare occasion however, some big money moves have materialised for example in January of 2018 when Arsene Wenger splashed out a reported £60m on current striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. It is however partly down to that star man Aubameyang as to why Arsenal now find themselves in the predicament they are in, his actions will now shape and affect some of the business conducted this window.
After two years of proudly wearing the captain’s armband, lifting an FA Cup and Community Shield, Arsenal’s Gabonese front man now finds himself out of the side and released to international duty early. Another reported disciplinary breach saw the 32 year old dropped completely from the squad in December and left to train alone ahead of The African Cup of Nations.
No future for three current Strikers?
The Arsenal striking department is something of a calamity currently with three of the four registered strikers facing uncertainties about their futures. Eddie Nketiah and Alex Lacazette both come to the end of their contracts in the summer and can speak to teams abroad this month.
Aubameyang has reportedly been made available for offers this January but that remains an unlikely scenario that the Gunners would be able to part ways with their number 14 due to his astronomical wages of around £350,000 per week. Folarin Balogun remains the only stably contracted centre forward having put pen to paper on a new four year deal in April of 2021. According to Football.London The 20 year old is set to join Championship side Middleborough on loan for the remaining six months of the campaign.
Many names have been discussed as to who the Gunners can bring in this month however, The Mirror reported Monday morning that Arsenal are willing to break the bank and pay a figure in the region of £70m for the “red hot” Fiorentina frontman Dusan Vlahovic in a deal that would see the north London club pay a fee similar to what they splashed out for the former Lille winger Nicholas Pepe.
Who is Dusan Vlahovic?
Dusan Vlahovic is a 21 year old Serbian striker who currently plays for Italian side Fiorentina. I Viola currently sit 7th in Serie A, level on points with Jose Mourinho’s Roma. Vlahovic has been having a prolific campaign so far, scoring 18 times and assisting a further three in 22 appearances through all competitions. Transfermarkt place his valuation at £63 million however it is being reported that a deal could potentially be struck at £58m or €69.4m
The 21 year old stands at 6ft 2 and carries a commanding ariel presence alongside his obviously natural finishing ability. At the end of 2021, the Serbian had equalled Cristiano Ronaldo’s record of 33 goals in a calendar year for Serie A.
During 2021, Arsenal strike target Dusan Vlahovic scored 33 goals in Serie A, equalling Cristiano Ronalo’s record of most goals scored in Serie A in a calendar year.— Dan George (@dangeorge47) January 11, 2022
Arsenal’s next number 9? 🤔⬇️ pic.twitter.com/Jisjb6HhZj
Vlhaovic cuts an intense figure in the centre of the pitch, never to shy away from a physical battle and constantly offering himself for the ball. The 21 year old likes to peel off the opposition central defenders to receive possession from midfield, then play off to his teammates and turn to build the attack.
His hold up play is superb, bringing his wide and midfield players into the game. This is an aspect that would hugely benefit Arsenal with the likes of Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe, Martin Ødegaard and Gabriel Martinelli all thriving off the current hold up play provided by Alex Lacazette. Bukayo Saka’s goal away against West Brom in the 2020/21 campaign epitomised this hold up play and how it can be devastating when used correctly in the final third. If Vlahovic can bring this aspect to Emirates Stadium, then the Arsenal offence could be one to be feared across Europe with all four attackers interchanging and playing off each other in the final third.
Vlahovic’s hold up play can also offer an outlet to get up the pitch quickly in away games against tougher opposition where Arsenal may not have as much of the ball. If the Striker can utilise his strength and hold up play married with the pace and creative flair provided behind him from Saka, Martinelli and Ødegaard, counter attacking play could be a tactic used frequently in these games. Vlahovic may however not be the answer, as other options that are apparently appreciated at Arsenal include Alexander Isak of Real Sociedad, and Domonic Calvert Lewin of Everton.
Arteta to strengthen the midfield?
Despite the Gunner’s hunt for a striker this January, Central Midfield remains an area of significant vulnerability as two of Arsenal’s dependable and important midfielders have departed for international duty at The African Cup of Nations. The void left by Mo Elneny and Thomas Partey has been left to be filled by 18 year old Charlie Patino who made his first senior start in an Arsenal shirt Sunday night when Mikel Arteta’s side made a shock early exit to Nottingham Forrest in the FA Cup.
With the departure of Partey and Elneny, Arsenal are left with Granit Xhaka, Albert Sambi Lokonga and Patino and with these limited options, it raises an eyebrow as to why the north London club were so happy to let Ainsley Maitland Niles leave on loan to join AS Roma. With midfield options few and the footballing callender set to get busy again with rescheduled fixtures, one can only assume Edu and Arteta are planning on recruiting a midfielder this window.
Concrete interest in Mohamed Elneny from Turkey.— Mark Mann-Bryans (@MarkyMBryans) January 11, 2022
Any deal is in flux though given Arsenal midfield issues.
It is likely they will look to bring someone in before allowing any other options to follow Ainsley Maitland-Niles out of the exit…
When questioned on the potential acquisition of a midfielder this month, this was the Arsenal Manager’s response to this on Friday.
“We are very very short at the moment. We are going to move and look for options because we are very short there”.
The main name on everyone’s lips and the player who has been most linked with a move to fill that void has been 24 year old Lyon Midfielder Bruno Guimaraes. The Arsenal manager’s comments show that the Brazilian may be one of the names on the list of midfield targets for Arsenal this month.
Who is Bruno Guimaraes?
Transfermarkt values the midfielder at a fee around £27m, the Lyon man has got six assists in 23 starts this season and signed for the French club in January of 2020 for a fee around at £18m. Standing at 5’9, Guimaraes is a mobile, deep laying playmaker who can be effective in all areas across the field, he is more than comfortable on the ball and is not afraid to take calculated risks.
Bruno Guimarães Vs PSGpic.twitter.com/ErMEm7i9vT— BNS Comps (@BnsComps) January 10, 2022
Another quality that Guimaraes possesses that Arteta would appreciate is his willingness to always show for the ball and make himself available. This means that Lyon are able to play out and around much easier, with Guimaraes at the heart of things, picking up possession and swiftly moving it on, only taking minimal touches. The Brazilian is no stranger to playing out from the back, and would fit right in at Arsenal in a pivot with either Xhaka or Partey on his return.
Looking to the rest of the season.
The January Transfer window is hotting up with the Gunners looking to be active this window. Ainsley Maitland-Niles’s loan departure to AS Roma marked the first of all business whilst further departures could include former captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as the club are willing to listen to offers for him as well as Portuguese right back Cedric Soares.
By the end of this window, Arsenal fans may have a much clearer idea as to how seriously their board are taking their quest for the Lucrative UEFA Champions League places.