The Gunners are not expected to be hugely busy in January but could look to strengthen in one key position
After some smart recruitment in the summer Arsenal are in a somewhat unfamiliar position of heading into a January transfer window without heaps of business to do.
The acquisitions of Nuno Tavares, Albert Sambi Lokonga, Ben White, Aaron Ramsdale, Martin Odegaard and Takehiro Tomiyasu mean the squad is as strong as it has been for some time at the Emirates Stadium.
This is a stark contrast to last winter window where, by MIkel Arteta’s own admission, the Gunners had to conduct an “unprecedented” amount of business.
As a result it seems that most of Edu’s focus will be on getting players out of the club, with Mohamed Elneny, Sead Kolasinac and Eddie Nketiah among those who could leave.
However, there is one position where the Brazilian is open to bringing someone in.
The African Cup of Nations poses a huge problem for Arsenal.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Nicolas Pepe are both set to be heading off to the tournament in Cameroon, although with the presence of Gabriel Martinelli, Alexandre Lacazette, Bukayo Saka, Flo Balogun, Emile Smith Rowe and Eddie Nketiah, the Gunners are well placed to cover the duo in the forward positions.
Thomas Partey and Mohamed Elneny are expected to head off to join up with Ghana and Egypt respectively. Both countries are among the tournament favourites meaning the pair could be gone for quite some time.
This would probably have been manageable if it weren’t for the serious knee injury suffered by Granit Xhaka in September’s North London Derby victory over Tottenham.
Although the Swiss international is progressing well in his recovery, he is not expected to be back in training until the start of 2021.
Given that this is the most serious injury layoff of his entire career, and that Arsenal will have a very busy fixture schedule around the time – with the Gunners potentially competing in the Carabao Cup semi finals as well as the FA Cup 3rd and 4th round and Premier League – it would be a lot to ask Xhaka to immediately play every week.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Albert Sambi Lokonga are the other senior options and have played alongside each other in a Premier League match against Norwich and the Carabao Cup third round tie against AFC Wimbledon. Again though with the schedule as busy as it is, it would be a risk to play the pair in every single match across the period.
Charlie Patino has impressed for the under-23s this season and could well earn himself a senior call up. However, football.london was able to reveal last month that the 18-year-old has suffered an ankle injury that could keep him out for a few weeks.
Although he is one of the highest rated players in the club’s academy, Per Mertesacker revealed to football.london that the Gunners are keen to manage the Hale Ender’s ascension to the first team carefully so as to avoid the similar injury problems suffered by Jack Wilshere, to whom Patino has been compared.
Salah Oulad M’Hand is also an option after making the bench for the Carabao Cup tie against Leeds, while Miguel Azeez could be recalled from his loan spell at Portsmouth due to a lack of minutes.
However, Arteta is likely to want a more senior option to call on as he seeks to guide Arsenal through a crucial period of their bid to get back into Europe.
It wouldn’t really be a transfer window at the Emirates if Lyon midfielder Houssem Aouar wasn’t linked in some way, while Dani Ceballos has been linked with a shock return from Real Madird and Manchester United’s Donny van de Beek has been mentioned among those who could join.
This trio though are more attack minded presences in the middle of the pitch, and given Arteta’s preference for the Partey-Sambi double pivot in recent weeks it would seem to make more sense to bring in a player with more deeper lying tendencies.
Wolves’ Ruben Neves was linked in the summer along with Bruno Guimaraes of Lyon. But with so many exciting prospects coming through the youth set up in the midfield positions and only a relatively short-term fix needed, spending big on a senior player may not be the wisest option in January.
Arsenal took advantage of the loan market to sign Martin Odegaard and Mat Ryan last summer and might be tempted to do so again this time out.
If they do so, then Bayern Munich’s Marc Roca could be a possible avenue to go down, although given the impressive record of the Gunners scouts in the summer, it is highly likely that they will be tracking a number of different options.