Ever since Arsenal finished the summer transfer window with just six senior defenders, it has appeared that strengthening their back line would be the club’s undoubted priority when the window reopened in January. Manager Arsène Wenger has himself long suggested that would be the case, yet, with the likes of Laurent Koscielny and Mathieu Debuchy back from injury, his focus now looks set to lie elsewhere next month. Talking at his press conference ahead of Arsenal’s New Year’s Day clash at Southampton, Wenger said that it was in midfield where he feels injuries have left him needing reinforcements.
“If you look at the number of games some players played and the injuries we have with [Jack] Wilshere [Aaron] Ramsey, [Mikel] Arteta, at the moment we are a bit short in midfield,” he explained.
As ever, though, Wenger insisted that he would not be pressured into buying simply to add bodies to his squad. “There is a need there, but the right opportunity has to come up,” he said. “Buy to buy, that’s not what we want to do. But if the right opportunity comes up we will do it.”
Still, heading into the second half of the season outside of the top four, the pressure will once again be on Arsenal’s long-serving manager to add quality to his squad. Here are four midfielders that could well be on Wenger’s radar:
William Carvalho (Sporting Lisbon)
Regardless of the injuries that have sidelined three of Arsenal’s key midfielders, there has long appeared a need at the Emirates Stadium for a more physically dominant, defensively disciplined midfielder. It could be that requirement which is addressed in January. Carvalho is still raw and has endured difficulty at times this season backing up his early promise, yet he would certainly provide more power to the Gunners’ often soft center. The 22-year-old Portugal international has been consistently linked with a transfer to Arsenal and there have been recent signs that it could materialize. Sporting’s manager Marco Silva has hinted that a move in January would be considered, while the club has also purchased the player’s full economic rights from a third party, making any transfer to the Premier League much simpler. He will not come cheap, however.
Sami Khedira (Real Madrid)
Arsenal were thought to be pursuing Khedira strongly in the summer before balking at his salary requirements. Still, with the German World Cup winner yet to sign an extension to his contract beyond the summer, rumors of a move to Arsenal have continued. Although not a sitting midfielder, he would add much experience and physicality to Wenger’s side and would join an already strong group of German players at the Emirates. But Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti has insisted that Khedira will remain with them until at least the end of the season, and given the Spanish giants don’t have a wealth of players of his type and that Khedira could have his pick of clubs and earn more money next summer, a January transfer appears highly unlikely.
Morgan Schneiderlin (Southampton)
Southampton fans won’t appreciate the following comment, but Schneiderlin would appear to be the perfect fit for Arsenal. Having been denied the chance to join the Southampton exodus over the summer, the somewhat surprise call up to France’s 2014 World Cup squad has continued to show himself to be one of the finest holding midfielders in the Premier League, regularly thwarting opponents with both tackles and interceptions. His Premier League experience means he stands a far greater chance of making a positive impact in January, while, of course, Wenger is far from adverse to signing French players. Southampton will have undoubtedly have other thoughts, and, currently sitting a place above Arsenal in the table, will be loathed to lose arguably their most important player midway through a season that still holds much promise.
Moussa Sissoko (Newcastle United)
Another France international midfielder and another who it is easy to see bringing a positive influence to Arsenal’s side. After joining from Toulouse at the start of 2013, Sissoko has become a consistently influential presence in the Newcastle team this season, with his dynamism particularly coming to the fore in helping his side to inflict the only defeat of the season so far on Chelsea. Yet, while that energy could be beneficial to Arsenal, he is far more of a forward-thinking midfielder than what is arguably required at the Emirates. The Independent has on Wednesday reported that a £9 million transfer bid could be forthcoming from Arsenal, but that Newcastle will reject it. Certainly Arsenal’s valuation is too low for a player of Sissoko’s qualities, but should they come to the table with a more appropriate offer then Newcastle have given plenty of evidence that they will always do business at the right price.