Opinion: Arsenal's January transfer window was just another case of papering over the cracks

The Gunners transfer window wasn't the success many people think.

Opinion: Arsenal's January transfer window was just another case of papering over the cracks
Arsenal signed two former Borussia Dortmund team mates in January | Photo: Getty Images/Stuart MacFarlane

For many reasons Arsenal's January transfer window simply papered over the cracks. However there is still an alarming amount of holes to pick in the paper Arsenal have tried covering up what has been a shambolic season so far.

If football were actually played on paper, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan would be the answer to the Gunners problems. But football is not played on paper, we all know that.

Football is played on a luscious surface of pristine grass, particularly at the Emirates - in which case Arsenal's two main January additions will likely suit that perfectly. They will improve the Gunners attacking potency, something which has been lacking of late, but was it what they really needed? Arguably not. 

Various pundits and Arsenal fans suggest the club did a fantastic job in January. There were, of course, some positives from the window, and it was far better than many would have imagined, but key figures at the club shouldn't be thinking it was a success.  

Replacing instead of adding

In a world of financial fair play and a constant struggle to balance the books, football clubs are always going to have to move players on. However, with Arsenal you always get the sense they are replacing players rather than adding. 

Arsenal's three top goal scorers from last season, Alexis Sanchez, Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud all departed the club in January and in their place came Mkhitaryan and Aubameyang. At no point in this January window have Arsenal added to the squad. They have merely replaced who has left. 

With the amount of goals leaving the North London club this month other players had to come in. Indeed the two former Dortmund men are very good signings but even with their arrivals, you feel as though Wenger's team are still miles off the pace. 

Going into this weekend's match with Everton, Arsenal sit eight points off the top four. If a team that contained Sanchez for half of the season struggled, then what's to say they won't still struggle with Aubameyang too.

Arsenal haven't added more goals to their armoury, they have taken them away and tried to replace them with a formula we aren't aware will work yet. 

Strengthening rivals

The thing that will have Arsenal fans incensed is that they are still a selling club. It may be hard for some to admit it after the Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri and Robin van Persie sagas, but Arsenal are back to being a team that strengthens their direct rivals. 

The Sanchez move to Manchester United is one that's easy to get behind though. If reports are to be believed that the Chilean dented Arsenal's squad harmony then getting him out of the door as soon as possible makes sense. 

Originally it was thought he'd end up at Manchester City but that was not the case. Instead, he joined their rivals in a move that saw Mkhitaryan go the other way

It's difficult to work out who got the better end of the deal. To get Mkhitaryan as part of it was shrewd from Arsenal, but ultimately it can merely be described as an attempt to cushion the blow of the club's best player leaving - rather than improving the squad.

Giroud's move to Chelsea though could go down as one of Arsene Wenger's biggest mistakes in terms of player departures. The French striker was involved in a merry-go-round of transfers that saw him end up at Chelsea after the Blues loaned Michy Batshuayi to Dortmund following their sale of Aubameyang

If it was a transfer that was done to ensure Dortmund had their replacement lined up so Aubameyang got across the line then it's slightly understandable - but the plug could have been pulled on a deal that involved Chelsea. In short, Wenger shouldn't have allowed him to move to a direct rival. 

In his pre-match press conference on Friday morning, he said: "Olivier wanted more playing time and wants as well to go to the World Cup. That is why I opened the door." 

For Giroud himself, those are perfectly acceptable reasons and with the likelihood of being behind Alexandre Lacazette and Aubameyang in the pecking order, it made sense for him to leave. However for Arsenal to consider doing business with Chelsea and selling a player who is up there as the best plan B option in the league for as low a fee as they did, is a decision that makes little to zero sense. 

Giroud may not have been everyone's favourite player, but he was hugely undervalued and will be a big miss to Arsenal.

Defence still an issue

For the replacing of goals in attack and the selling of players to rivals - it is Wenger's lack of effort to improve a defence that is shipping goals at will that was the main concern from the January transfer window. 

Arsenal have let in 34 Premier League goals this season. A tally which is the same as bottom-placed side West Brom. That tells you all you need to know about the Gunners struggles and it's quite ironic that the only defensive signing they tried to make was that of a Baggies defender, Jonny Evans

A £12m bid was reportedly rejected on deadline day and aside from that it was just attack minded thinking from Wenger in terms of additions. 

Arsenal's defensive display against Swansea on Tuesday was pathetic and the Gunners will have to find an internal remedy quickly after failing to sign a first team defender. There was the signing of Greek centre-back Konstantinos Mavropanos but he will not be ready for a number of years. 

There is plenty to look forward to in the forward areas, but surely the summer transfer window has to be dedicated to finding a centre back and even a goalkeeper to replace the ageing and inconsistent Petr Cech.

Little positives

Despite the cracks that are there for all to see, there were some positives to take from January. The main one was Mesut Ozil agreeing to sign a new three and a half year contract with Arsenal.

Forget the signing of Aubameyang - this was, without doubt, the best business the Gunners could have done at the turn of the year. No one was really sure whether the German would sign a new deal but after months of speculation, he finally put pen to paper to become the highest paid player in the clubs history on a reported £350,000 a week.

Considering Arsenal are in the Europa League at the moment, getting Ozil to agree a new contract was monumental news for the club. For a similar reason acquiring a player of the calibre of Aubameyang was a huge plus for Arsenal.

It remains to be seen just how good a signing the Gabon international will be, but his acquisition and Ozil committing to stay means there are some reasons for Arsenal fans to be happy in what is a transitional and troubled period for the football club.